Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

19 March 2008

God

First and foremost, I think we should believe in God. I do. And why not? Is it more comforting to think that this entire universe just…kinda/sorta…happened? You know, spontaneously popped into existence “for some reason” that we cannot explain? Not for me it’s not. I prefer to believe that the universe was instead created deliberately for us. And that our Creator (let’s call him “God”) wants to meet us when this mortal life is done. Yes, I believe that our souls live on. Maybe they’ve always lived. Maybe we’ve always existed and always will exist, and this human phase is just that: one transitory step in the process.

Atheists say that if we God-believers would just use our brains, we would come to the immediate and logical conclusion that there is no God. Evolution is so clearly evident; how could there be any other explanation? To the atheist, the concept of “God” is just a crutch for the emotionally weak; something we turn to because we feel that we don’t have control over our lives, something we use to explain the inexplicable…e.g. “God did it,” or “It’s God’s will.”

Maybe it is easier for them that way.

Atheists challenge us to empirically prove beyond a shadow of a scientific doubt that God exists…that it is in fact our obligation to do so. Of course we cannot. But so what? We take a lot of things on faith. If someone says they love us, do we not believe them? They cannot “prove” their love and neither can we. We take it on faith. How sad, dismal and dreary our lives would be if we denied the existence of love simply because we cannot touch, feel or see it, or prove it scientifically.

As for God, I have felt His direct intervention in my own life. I see His handiwork everywhere, in things as simple as…well, the orange.

Consider the orange. To begin with, it is pleasing in color to us humans (but to any other species?). Beneath the tough, protective rind is a marvelous fruit that tastes great either in solid form, squeezed into a juice. Not only is it tasty, but it is tremendously good for us too! Could you even remotely think that the orange just sort of developed naturally and coincidentally as we humans were evolving out of the primordial soup? Can you think of any other reason for the existence of the orange except as a gift for us? How about the pineapple and the coconut too for that matter? With a little thought I’m sure you can come up with other examples of things on this planet that are of no use to anything but humans.

You want evidence that there is a God? Just look around objectively. Do we think that any other species on earth sees a particularly dramatic sunrise or sunset and thinks, “Gee, what a beautiful day!” If they do, they haven’t let us know yet. And as I’ve pointed out before, monkeys have not written “War And Peace,” dolphins haven’t gone to the moon and giraffes haven’t built any submarines (although there may be good, practical reasons for the latter). Elephants have not invented the orange creamsickle, hot chocolate or the pineapple upside-down cake. And as smart as my dog is, I doubt I could teach him to drive a car with a manual transmission. So we humans are inarguably at the top of the food chain on this planet. A serendipitous accident?

My favorite televangelist (i.e. the only one I watch) is Joel Osteen, pastor of the huge Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Osteen is often dismissed as merely a “good news” preacher by and as opposed to those who’d prefer to see us burn in fiery hell or at least purgatory for our “sins.” Pointing out Joel’s good-newsyness is not far from the truth, and yet I see no harm in this approach. His sermons routinely focus on the idea that God wants the best for us…that He wants us to succeed and do well and be well. It is a recurring theme. Joel uses Scripture, but he doesn’t bash us over the head with the Bible. He does not tell us what we *cannot* do. Instead, he just extols all the good there is in life, the tremendous possibilities available for us and how we can achieve them – which is through ourselves!…and a loving, healthy relationship with God and Christ, of course, but that goes without saying.

Churches down here in the South frequently put up little marquee billboards outside with cutesy sayings on them. For instance, "God accepts ‘knee-mail’" and "If you won’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything." Stuff like that. And so I was driving around recently when I spotted this church. The message on their marquee was, "We are called to be witnesses, not judges or lawyers."

And I thought, yes! That’s it! That’s right! So simple and yet so true. Witnesses!

Look, I can talk to you all day long about God’s existence and presence in my life. I can tell you how He has touched and helped me in very direct ways. How He gives me spiritual guidance and courage and strength. Are these things already within me…within all of us? Sure! But believing and praying helps me tap into and channel them more fully.

After our day of talking, you may still feel that all of my examples can just be chalked up to “luck,” or happenstance or coincidence. All of my “evidence” of God’s existence is faulty and invalid. Oh, well.

In the end, I cannot tell you what to believe. You must come to that on your own. Very likely, your beliefs will evolve over your life. What you believe today may not be what you believe tomorrow…or what you believed yesterday. But I hope you will look at this universe objectively and realize that it was created just for you. And that you were deliberately created! For what purpose? I have no friggin’ idea. I guess/hope we’ll find that out when we die. But created we were, by a God who loves us very much and wants us to succeed and realize our fullest potential as humans, whatever that may be. That’s all I need to know.

We have the power within us to succeed or not…to be happy or not. I opt for the former in both cases. I know I can do it, and I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to admit that sometimes I can use a little help and guidance. Even at my lowest times, I am never truly alone. And what a wonderful, reassuring feeling that is! Is it illusory…a self-delusion? Not at all.

When I die, I will meet my Creator and give a good accounting of my life with no excuses. In fact, I look forward to that day. The atheist may say the same thing. He may claim that he can be just as happy and successful as me, without the perceived guilt-trip of ever having to be accountable for his actions. And maybe he's right.

But I don't think so. And if that’s being simple-minded or not being objective or logical enough, well, so be it. Such a belief system has not harmed me yet. In fact, I would testify to the exact opposite.

11 comments:

Hal Johnson said...

Great post, Bob. Thanks.

Guanaja Sharon said...

Don't know what to say Bob. I started out early in life going to church, believing. As I got older it became more and more difficult to believe, especially in the organized religions. Each has a "God" and their God is better than the one other people worship. As a matter of fact, in some religions they believe you can't get into Heaven if you don't believe the way they do. So who is to say whose God is the right one?
I don't know why we were put here and I find that the older I get the less I believe there is an after life. Yes, we all die and return to Mother Earth and will reappear as fertilizer for a plant or be brought back through a plant, or eaten by an animal and be part of them. By that token I guess you could then say we are all part of the big package and eventually will contribute to the beauty of the Earth.
It seems man needs religion to force him to be good and moral otherwise he would have no incentive to do so on his own.
I am disheartened by what I see around me in the name of religion. Surely, if there is a God, he is not happy with the way things have gone with his creation.
In spite of what I have written here, I hold out hope that there is some power over our life which is leading us. I believe we have choices in our life and how we make them, naturally, affects how our lives will play out. I don't know if I have any divine guidance and have never experienced any "connection." I simply hope to live a good life being kind to my fellow man and loving nature and all its creatures. If being good and trying your best won't get me in - then I guess I'm lost.
I tend to think of God more on the order of "Mother Nature" for nature is all around and really controls are lives. In that respect, I have a great deal of faith in Nature and its beauty and whether or not it takes the form of God for some, is up to the individual.
I've babbled long enough. I'm glad you believe and have faith. I believe Christ was truly a wonderful being and did exist. So maybe I stand a chance?!

Anonymous said...

If this post was a course, I'd call it, "Proof God Exists 101".


kman

Bob Barbanes said...

I purposely stayed away from linking religion and faith because I think they are two separate things, although often confused. My point of this post was very simply to share my view, which is that God absolutely does exist for me, and leave it at that. Religion complicates things, and I choose not to argue whether one religion or another is more valid or more authentic or better for you.

I think the most important thing is to just realize that we *were* created and that God loves us unconditionally. That simple realization makes my life "better." Because I know I'm not alone...never alone. If we don't at least get to that common starting point, then any discussion of religion would be pointless.

Redlefty said...

Amen.

And if you visit Houston I'd be happy to go see Olsteen with you. They even have a Saturday night service if you like to sleep in on Sunday. :)

wolfie_cr said...

"Consider the orange. To begin with, it is pleasing in color to us humans (but to any other species?).
Could you even remotely think that the orange just sort of developed naturally and coincidentally as we humans were evolving out of the primordial soup? Can you think of any other reason for the existence of the orange except as a gift for us?"

As it turns out, can you think of things that are pleasing to us in color/shape/taste etc that are bad to us? If so is this a poison planted by Our Creator intentionally??? Similarly.......through evolution most of the things that can kill us......don't taste well to us......because if they did......we would have all eaten them and died and there would be noone left to ask that question.

I supose no other animal/insect eats oranges and that for millions of years oranges grew on trees rotting away until Humans came to exist in the very last few 'seconds' during Earth's existence? Finally do you think oranges were always that color? or does it have 'something' to do with Man's intervention. For instance Holsteins didn't roam out in the open, selective breeding for hundreds of years lead to a cow to gives nice milk. Everything we grow has gone through thousands of years of selective breeding so you can think of that as 'artificial' in many ways.

Also this is part of my problem with a god, the obsession of thinking that everything is about us. Yes, I can imagine millions of reasons (or imagine that there is no reason at all) for putting an orange here and yep, none of them have anything to do with us. Its like a fly saying to me "what a wonderful world, this pie was left in here specially for me, look how well prepared and tasty it is, its obvious that that Human loves me and wants me to eat from his pie"..... well I didn't put it in there for you so move before I bring the fly swatter :)

and thats my disertation on the orange, now going to fridge for my orange juice ;)

Bob Barbanes said...

Wolfie, does the fly have a conscience? Can he *not* eat the pie if he chooses so he won't be a fat fly? No. If you leave a pie out, the flies *will* land on it, no question. Why is it that we humans can just say no to pie? I've got some Breyer's ice cream in the freezer and I could very well eat the whole carton in one sitting. But I do not.

Now, I'm trying to think of something that is pleasing in color, shape and taste but is at the same time poisonous or toxic for us. Could you provide an example? Even so, I would not dispute that it was also created by God- I have no problem with that. We're supposed to not only have a brain but use it and not eat the bad stuff if it makes us sick.

In fact, I don't dispute the theory of evolution at all. I just know that there was someone or something that started it all, and we call that entity God. I would buy off completely on "evolution," but I cannot get my head around how this whole...mess...began. Did the universe always exist? That seems a tad farfetched, at least for my pea brain. There had to be a beginning at some point...right?

And you're right about oranges, down in the tropics, where they're from, they're yellow. It's still a pleasing color - to me, anyway, maybe not to you and maybe or maybe not to an ant. The shape and taste are too, regardless of what color the "orange" is.

If indeed oranges etc. have been around millions of years longer than us, that still doesn't mean they weren't made for humans, who seem to be their most likely recipient.

You can sharpshoot and counter everything and say, "Hah! That doesn't prove there's a God!" all you want. That's okay. For you, there may be no God. For me, there is. Maybe He really did make pineapples for the ants or whatever, and not for us. But I prefer to see evidence of His existence everywhere I look, and I'm not so callous as to say, "Feh- coincidence! ...Coincidence! Another coincidence!" For me there are simply too many such "coincidences."

wolfie_cr said...

In my previous post in particular I am not with 'there is god/no god etc' I am simply saying that its easy to convince yourself into seeing something where there is nothing at all. OR decide on our own that we are the most likely recipient for oranges (?)

humans could say no to pie if they know that they will get food LATER or not hungry, that is simply how WE act. For one reason or the reason you will act in a certain way. Dogs for instance are pack animals, they will eat as much as they can in one seating because in the past they could go on for weeks without capturing a deer for instance. A snake does not act in this way,they eat....then go a long time without the need to. This has nothing to do with conscience or not, its simply the way they act under certain circunstances. If I am in the 'wild' and EXTREMELY hungry, I can tell you that conscience or not I will eat the darn thing even if I dont like pie

My analogy got thrown in a totally different direction as I was simply saying that we can't asume that things are here for US, being a 'city guy' I am not savvy about the diet of many animals but I would be SHOCKED if only humans eat oranges, which btw I have not seen as they were in their 'wild' variety and I didnt mean here in the tropics, I meant say 50000 years ago before we started domesticating all sorts of plants and animals and at that point they were probably not that tasty, not that round, not that yellow etc, what you see now in the supermarket is a 'refined' version of the wild orange that OF COURSE pleases us because otherwise people wouldnt buy it!.

One whole paragraph to say, the orange you see and think of it as 'perfect' is in many ways our own 'creation and version of perfectness' (no wonder it looks 'perfect')

Instead of saying "everything is perfect and made for us" I see a "the world is a dangerous place, some things are good, some things are neutral, some things can kill me, tiny bacteria will make me sick without having a chance to do anything!, I am here simply because I am the survivor of billions of other humans, that might have died/or be more vulnerable to a tiny bacteria that is here......for no good reason? who put it there? ebola? nice eh! or SIMPLY I am in a place that luckily doesnt have that EVIL thing, I am freaking lucky not to be in an Ebola infested area"

Perhaps we are doomed by our own mind to seek patterns all the time whether they exist or not, all it takes is to stare at the clouds and find your favorite animal there. Is there a DESIGN in the clouds that magically shows me a mutt? I don't think so....BUT people see strange things in a piece of toast and immediately say that without a doubt....there is some magic in it and pay bunches of $ for a toast that has a burn mark vaguely resembling the Virgin Mary or Jesus or Budda etc.


"But I prefer to see evidence of His existence everywhere I look" that's what I was talking about by predisposing ourselves to seeing patterns, its a CHOICE that you make. And you could be right, may be there is evidence of 'something' everywhere but going in that direction is not a 'given' to me.

Anyway, time to shut up now, I think its time to have a beer and thank you for tolerating my comments, Cheers :)

Bob Barbanes said...

Wofie, you make some very broad assumptions. Do you know for a fact that the fruit and vegetables we eat today that taste so good were *all* invented/modified for us? I don't know that oranges existed 50,000 years ago, nor can I vouch for their taste back when, nor do I see any other species making use of them the way we do. All I know is how the dang things taste now, and I'm not yet willing to say that it's all been human-engineered. (The indigenous Honduran "oranges" I ate were delicious! Bigger, nearly as sweet and certainly more juicy than their American counterparts.)

As for eating, your "argument" (if you will) is beside the point. We humans decide what and when we eat; insects/animals don't. We have the ability to reason; they don't. If you were starving, sure, you'd probably eat anything and everything. My dog certainly is not starving; he will eat as much as I put out for him until he falls over from exhaustion.

Which brings me to your apparent fault-finding with humans making associations and seeing patterns. Umm, that gets to our brains again...our unique and peculiar ability to reason and free-associate and relate things in an intelligent, meaningful way, something we haven't even been able to create a computer to do. How is it that humans are the only creatures on the planet that are artistic? Or that blush?

If "evolution" were strictly true, wouldn't you think that by now there would be other organisms that evolved to our same point? How come no talking cockroaches yet? Why no geckos with opposable-thumbs?

When I say that I see evidence of God's existence "everywhere," I did not mean that in a literal, "every single place I look" way but a more general one. And see His handiwork, I do!

I flew three passengers from Pensacola to New Orleans and back yesterday. Both ways, they saw the earth from a new and distinct perspective. Coming home right at sunset, the view was so beautiful that they were literally awe-struck. (I was too...as always.)

I think it is very callous to witness such things and not think of them as incredible gifts but merely convenient coincidences.

My brain just doesn't let me do that.

wolfie_cr said...

Bob, lets not talk about broad assumptions PLEASE :)

On the 'our food is as is because we have refined it that way' well, you can easily research this on your own if you want, what am I suposed to do, paste into the blog a biology/botany book or something. I simply made a sequence of statements that are aimed like this

a) food is appealing and well tasting because it has to be, if it were not we would die, you don't eat dirt (under normal conditions) because it doesnt taste well to start with and this is a consequence of not needing it

b) once we find something we like to eat we refine it by selecting the ones that look better and taste better of the bunch, and get more of those

c) if 100 people for instance see a poisonous vegetable, say 30 like it and 70 dislike it, they eat it and die, the other 70 mourn and wonder what happened to their 30 friends. These 70 that survived end up with 70 kids that will probably not be as prone to liking the poisonous vegetable etc etc, natural selection blabla and what do we end up with, a population of people that find some vegetables appealing and healthy and delicious and some others that are not at all, ah yeah, and they wonder how come those appealing vegetables are so delicious and appealing and good for us and keep breeding/growing the best examples of those vegetables/animals (natural selection IS a good thing)


Second, on my "the fly must think that a pie I leave in my kitchen was put in there for it"

We decide WHEN to eat because we CONTROL our enviroment and can go to a store to get food, if you did NOT know for sure how things are going to turn out in any given day you will ACT very different. Your dog will do what his instict will tell him because he (and millions of his relatives) have survived by doing that. But he DOES probably believe that you are a God and that WHATEVER he finds in the house to eat was put there for him, whether you did (daily meal) or you didn't (you forgot that juicy steak in an easy to reach place) that was my point.

On the "why is there only one intelligent species in the planet"

What would you do with a talking cockrach ? :) I would probably squash it and I can tell you that competing species are NOT welcome in this planet.....we have done enough getting rid of common animals that compete with us for land/food/water etc (list of extinct species keeps getting bigger every year, are they bad? no, they are in the way most of the time, intelligent or not) so its not far fetched to realize that once ANY species reaches the top it will exert heavy pressure on the ones that are (at that point) below it. Hell, there was NO space in America (the continent) for the precolumbian cultures and the ones coming from the New World (that came to bring them 'salvation')

So if we someday blow ourselves up perhaps there will be space for a talking cockroaches. They are pretty well suit to survive, and the insects have interesting 'social structures' such as the bees and ants, besides IF THEY WERE such beings you believers would IMMEDIATELY say something like "well the love of God created them, why would he ONLY create ONE intelligent species" OR they would have already tried to destroy us (or the opposite) if their philosophical views as to what the 'creator' looks like are in conflict.

With 'broad assumptions' there is ALWAYS a way out specially when the key sentences are

"its because of his love" or "he works in misterious ways", this ambivalence is one of the flaws I find that philosophy

I don't find fault in humans making associations, if it were not for those ......I would be dead (or approaching the final quarter of my lifespan, as life expectancy in the 'open/natural world' is much lower) or living in a cave eating as much as I possibly can each time. What I find fault is with the 'everything was made perfectly for me' association-obsession...conveniently and blindly ignoring the things that don't suit such view.

wolfie_cr said...

See this example of selective reasoning

"I flew three passengers from Pensacola to New Orleans and back yesterday. Both ways, they saw the earth from a new and distinct perspective. Coming home right at sunset, the view was so beautiful that they were literally awe-struck. (I was too...as always.)

I think it is very callous to witness such things and not think of them as incredible gifts but merely convenient coincidences."

When/if you fly a rescue team to the place of a hurricane/earthquake/similar natural disaster do you and your passengers see SOMEONE'S handiwork in here or do you even think about that?

and if you do, do you assume that there is a purpose to it?

I think its very convenient and delutional to assign a 'creator' to nice things and to either ignore the same when a bad thing happens OR to have a 'free ticket out of jail' by saying "there must be a reason to it, I dont know what it is, but there is"

Its like when Howie Mandel in the 'deal or no deal show' opens up the final suitcase......when the amount is low and he gets $$$$$ he LOUDLY says "you have made a great deal!!!!!!!!" when the amount is huge and the person got say 50k ......then he quietly mumbles something.