Posts Tagged ‘God’


There was a community that was very religious.  Someone, a long, long time ago wrote about God.  They all believed this writing was holy and to be believed to the word as long as they ignored certain words of warning.  It was a very comforting faith because no matter how difficult things were today, this book of writings about God promised that there was life after death and all you had to do to have that extended life was to utter certain words, with sincerity and passion.  And when you had done that, you could go your way, do your thing, ignore those who had not uttered the words, make serious purposeful mistakes, be forgiven, over and over, rape the land, pollute the sky, poison the oceans, and be forgiven, assured that there was an infinite future, a wonderful reward that would last forever.

Now if you did not utter the words with sincerity and passion, fully meaning what you said, it did not count.  You would be destined to live forever in a kind of hell along with all those who did not utter the magic words.  But, if you meant it, truly, you were safe and secure knowing that all the others who had done so would be with you in this great place of reward after you died.

One day, somebody who did not believe in magic said there was a problem in the world.  They had observed that by raping the earth, polluting the sky, poisoning the oceans, and oh yes, burning up some goo that the earth had been incubating for thousands, and thousands of years in a little more than a hundred years, the natural world was protesting.  But the faithful did not worry because their future was safe and secure, even after they died, forever.  They even believed that the earth would end but they would get their reward.  Their writings told them to multiply and subdue the earth, so they did.  They were inventive and used the goo to grow more food, build great engines, and populate the earth.  No problem if this was not sustainable.  They had a promise.   They would be going to the great reward and those who did not believe in magic would be left behind in their hell on earth.

Over the years, many of the believers died.  Nobody ever heard from them again.  Even so, those still alive believed they would see their deceased friends in the future in a great place of reward.  Meanwhile, the rape, pollution, and poisoning continued.  Then, one day, it did get warmer, the polar caps did melt, the oceans did rise, storms became severe and frequent, fires were common, water, oddly enough, became scarce.  The great experiment called homo sapiens was called to account.  God, as it turned out, was part of nature itself.  Judgement was administered.  The experiment ended.  This time, there was no boat to board to save a few for the future reclamation of the earth.  Believer and non-believer alike were gone.  Their friends, if they were enjoying their great reward, did not care.  They got theirs.  They just assumed the rest went to hell.

Belief like this is not enough, maybe not even the correct way to live!


What Does God Want?

In the Christian tradition in which I was raised, there is frequent reference to God’s will. What does God want for the human race? Throughout the Hebrew and Christian scriptural cannon, we read of prophets who proclaimed God’s dissatisfaction with ‘His’ people who strayed from his covenant, his will for them. Today, we approach what the world should be by reference to God’s commandments and his revealed will. Unfortunately, we speak to a world what does not share our view of God, much less place value in “God’s Will” for us.

It is instructive to consider what Gods Will is in areas that this question is not usually asked. For example, what is God’s Will with regard to the population of the world? Is God happy at our world population approaching 9 billion? Is God sad that we have allowed uncontrolled growth of human kind? Or, is God pleased to see so many people made in his image? Is the more the merrier in this regard? If 9 billion is good, is 50 billion better? Maybe God is not pleased to see human kind expand to the point that many suffer from lack of basic needs?

What is God’s Will with regard to space exploration? Does God want the human race to be limited to the earth or would God prefer we travel to the far reaches of the universe, mastering other planets, mining the asteroids, plundering other living species so that God’s people can expand and master the whole of the reachable universe? Is this God’s solution to a growing population, an accepted need for continual growth? Or, since God accepts the death of individual humans, is God equally OK with the death of the human race, seeing it as just a natural outcome of birth, and life, something we see in all of God’s nature?

What is God’s will with regard to eggs? Is it acceptable to God that as humans we eat the eggs of other species, preventing them from being fertilized, preventing them from becoming new life? Is it God’s Will that all eggs created by nature be fertilized and give rise to a new birth, human or non-human alike? Does God prefer that all human families birth as many children as a woman has eggs or a man has sperm? Does God judge celibacy as fundamentally sinful, denying the opportunity for a human being with a soul from existing? Does God see this as equivalent to murder?

What is God’s Will with regard to medical technology? Was God more pleased when we allowed natural death to occur or is God more pleased to see us extend life as far as possible using enormous resources to extend life a few days, months or years, even when that life lacks quality and even if it results in great poverty for others and at great cost to society as a whole? What does God think about mammograms, CT machines, MRI machines, acupuncture, miracle medicines that make some people rich and others poor?

The point of these questions for me is this. To base our decisions on what we perceive to be God’s Will does not solve the fundamental problems we collectively share in the world today. In the past, when there was so much of nature that remained a mystery, it was useful to have a concept of God’s Will to guide us. Yet, fundamentally, what historically was called God’s Will was in fact a collection of understandings of what it meant to live in relationship with other people, what served the common good, how to live out a life with harmony, love, wholesome pleasure. And, I suggest this is precisely how we should be approaching the problems and issues of the day. It seems archaic to base the “should be’s” on the external reference to a God which is becoming more and more distant to more and more of the people alive today.

The best reasons for what is right and what is wrong is how it impacts the common good, maintains or builds equity and fairness, avoids unnecessary suffering, relies on what can best be demonstrated to be true. If there is a God, it is surely God’s desire for a sustainable future, one beyond our own limited existence, a sacrificial living for the good of all and of those not yet alive. And this is complex enough that we don’t need to draw on our inadequate understanding of the “God’s Will.”

Cecil Denney

Ecological Sustainability

Posted: March 29, 2012 in Environment
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Arguments from Scripture – NOT

 The church has a historical reliance on acting out what it believes is God’s Will. The expression of God’s Will is articulated in the scriptures revealed over thousands of years to the people willing to listen and to grow in their understanding and world view. Today, we find many people who no longer find scripture to be compelling. Many find the concept of God, as the church tells us, is revealed in the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. They find the explanation of the origination of sin a concept from a mythical story in the Garden of Eden superstitious. As a mythical story, they find the necessity of the death of Jesus a strange explanation for redemption or even the need for redemption.

Into these ears, then, ecological sustainability presented as based on God’s Will makes no sense. Surely, it is not God’s Will that every one on the planet die. Was the human race just a grand experiment? No, they do not see the rationale for caring for the planet, creating a sustainable world based in scripture and to do so marginalizes the advocates. They look the same as those who advocate that God, who created everything, hates gay people, thinks it is ok to enslave people, is opposed to contraception. They want no part of that God and further, would prefer not to have to do anything with those who propose they speak for God because of their scriptures, the word of God.

Religious people, Christians to be specific should not attempt to argue for a sustainable world based on some interpretation of scripture no matter how confident they are that this is the basis for a sustainable world. Rather,we should adopt a more rational appeal, one based on appeals to the human value of self-interest and immortality, the immortality achieved by our surviving progeny. Whether or not one believes in an afterlife; whether or not we believe it is a “heaven” or a “hell”, we all prefer to postpone that experience in preference for the certainty of the life we have over the uncertainty of a possible life to come. We all find that adrenaline surge when frightened or threatened, that human experience of fear. And, if we are indeed God’s creatures, then this is a naturally endowed aspect of this life, a preference for not dying prematurely and perhaps not at all.

So, even the religious appeal for care for this planet on which we live should be based on the God-given characteristics of being the human creatures we are, not on some scriptural interpretation of words written long before sustainability was even a consideration on the distant horizon. We want to engage all humanity in a concern for the survivability of the human race. We want all humanity to be engaged in living as though survivability depended on them individually. This is not a Christian issue uniquely, not even a religious issue uniquely, but a fundamental necessity for every human alive today, even those with short-term pleasure as more important than the well-being of their progeny.


Please read the first part of this two part blog.  Star Dust

First a couple of facts (as opposed to beliefs).  No one can prove there is a GOD.  It is also true that no one can prove there is NOT a GOD.  Yes, I know there are those who claim to have “experienced” the presence of what they BELIEVE (with all their hearts) was God.  They can cite the difference in their lives as evidence of the experience, but they can’t give you the experience they had.  Unfortunately, we are all isolated creatures, capable of communication, but that communication, at its very best, can only communicate an approximate facsimile of the experience, not proof.  Enough of that, my position should be clear.

Yet, I have the experience of God every day. When I think about the implication of being star dust (see Star Dust blog) I see there is some underlying force of nature that allows, indeed fosters the creation of elements that in all their richness have the capacity to form into organized structures.  Obviously they organize into stars.  We have learned that exploding stars broadcast higher level elements.  We have learned that these tend to “gravitate” toward each other and under the influence of greater and greater collections, form planets.  We have come to understand that if these planets are just the right distance from the galaxy center and just the right distance from a supporting star, and rotate just the right amount, they are capable of collecting liquid water.  When there is liquid water, we have learned elements can collect in the presence of solar and planet heat, form collections capable of replicating themselves with the ultimate outcome of becoming what we call living systems, interdependent on the environment that supported their development.

I call this a Life Force, a fundamental structure, created in the big bang which has resulted in living systems that can exchange information, learn, grow, and come to understand, at least at some primitive level, the very system that created them.  So, to me, I see this Life Force as the embodiment of what people call God.  I have found, in my own spiritual practices with people in a liberal protestant setting, that I can share in worship understanding what some people see as an external reality they call their God by mentally substituting my understanding of this grand, magnificent Life Force.  As I pray, I understand that I seek to complement, not work against this Life Force.  I feel morally responsible to sustain the capabilities of this planet.  I celebrate the scientific discoveries that inform our understanding of our place in the universe all the way down to my own family dynamics.  When I see a beautiful sunset or peaceful lake, or snow on the tree branches, I can celebrate the fact that I have been given the chance to experience this Life Force personally.

And I also can feel anger and even rage when I see actions that through ignorance or selfishness lead to thwarting this Life Force in the here and now.  I get frustrated when people ignore this Life Force and seek their own personal pleasure and gain at the expense of others.  In other words, my moral capacity is not diminished by this understanding and the fact that this Life Force has a cycle that will one day deny my ability to participate.  It is the kingdom of god here and now that we are all given by this undeserved gift of life.  How will be respond?  Will we resist or conspire to support the Life Force for all of life’s creation and creatures?

Star Dust

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Philosophy, Science
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Life as star dust

We are all star dust.  If you accept our current scientific understanding about the origin of the universe, then you accept the concept of the Big Bang, that event that took place some 13 plus billion years ago in an enormous creative explosion that began the universe.  During the approximately first 9 billion years, during the great expansion of the universe, some of the matter that was created began to coalesce into stars that burned and whose gravity attracted more matter and more matter so that in some cases, these stars became so big they exploded in great super nova propelling throughout their region of space not just hydrogen and helium, but heavier metals like carbon, nitrogen, iron,  and all the other elements.  As these were constrained by gravity, they too began to coalesce into asteroids and planets and be captured by other stars.  In some cases, as stars coalesced together, they became great “attractors” of other stars whose vectors placed them in great spiral orbits about a central point which became a black hole that did not explode.

The energy that made all this possible in addition to the creative process itself was based on fusion within the stars that created cosmic radiation.  Too close to the central black hole and the radiation was very powerful.  All stars and their planets were bathed with this intense radiation.  Further out, planets that orbited stars were not bombarded by this heavy radiation from the center of the galaxy, but they might be from the star or double star they orbited.  But, if they were the right distance from their star and the galaxy center, the radiation was acceptable and the planet was warmed so that hydrogen and oxygen could combine into a liquid form, water.

In this just right place, the earth was formed about 4 billion years ago.  As it cooled and the oceans formed, another mysterious event took place.  Some of the chemical elements formed together and over time, they acquired a structure that supported a replication of the structure.  Eventually, these replicating chemical structures took on a form we call “life” and eventually “human life” as we understand it today.

This is the chain as we understand it today from the birth of the universe to the evolution of life as we know it on this particular collection of star dust floating just the right distance from a star we call our sun which is just at the right distance from the galaxy center.

So here we are, particles of star dust originally particles from the big bang, products of the creative forces that began with the Big Bang.  From dust we came and back to dust we will go.

So where is “God” in all this?  Next I will address how I have come to understand what that means to me.

Is There A God?

Posted: February 2, 2012 in Philosophy, Religion, Science
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This is slightly different than the question “Does God Exist?”  Partially it is different because there are many different concepts of God and you would have to be clear what your definition of God was in order to know about “existence.”  Furthermore, your definition is going to be inadequate if your God is supernatural, that is above the laws as understood today by humankind.  That is because your definition is limited to your ability to craft words that try to define something that is beyond words.  So while “existence” is hard to answer,  the answer to the question I have proposed, “Is their a God?” is easily answered.  Yes, many. In my first blog, I talked about “knowledge” and the fact that I don’t “KNOW” but the one fact that I don’t KNOW anything else.  Given that, I highly suspect no one else “knows” anything either.  It is all a matter of guesses and opinions formed out of our experiences, including scientific experimental conclusions.  Never-the-less, I will share my opinions.

“Entropy is the tendency (or force if you will) to decrease the organization or complexity of systems. Anti-entropy is the opposite tendency which is to increase the organization of systems.”  Essentially, scientist believe the universe is “running down”; all the stars will burn out and things will approach absolute zero.  Obviously, not for a long long time, but that is entropy at work.  Yet, there is lots of anti-entropic activity going on as well.  It is hard to imagine, but from the beginning so called Big Bang, totally inert atomic particles organized themselves into elements and elements into structures that have the characteristic we call “life.”

So, the mental model I have of god is this “life force”, played out over billions of years resulting in the amazing organism (human being) that is capable of contemplating not only itself but also the forces which created it.  Somewhere I heard it said that “Humans are the universe trying to understand itself.”  It is a creative force somehow built into the laws that control the universe.  It is not clear to me that it has a purpose in the cause-effect sense, but from an evolutionary sense, it clearly moves, somewhat haltingly, toward greater and greater anti-entropic forms.

Each person has some kind of model of reality that includes elements of awe and worship, not always healthy, but present.  And as our models of reality are subject to change, so is our model of our god.  If revelation is taking place, it is the creative nature of this life force that continues to reveal itself through continual creation itself.  No one knows what the future may bring.  Who or what is your god like?