Posts Tagged ‘God’

Lean to the Left, Lean to the Right

November 4, 2014

The media talks about elections as if they were sporting events. Which team is going to win? Which one is pleasing the fans most? But it’s not like that. It’s serious business. Unfortunately, the fans have become inebriated. They want to feel good NOW. We have one party (the Democrats) that tries to serve both God and Mammon (Biblical language for money and worldly power) and ends up wispy and frightened. And we have another (the Republicans) that is all-out for Mammon, and therefore unconflicted—in an insane kind of way. When the Republicans are on the outs, they expend enormous amounts of energy trying to undermine the foundations and bring down the house. When they are in control, they pound the table, shouting “United We Stand!” It is not an exhortation; it’s a threat. I will never stand united with the Republicans. Never. Those lovers of Mammon can never represent me. If they do obtain the power they seek, then I go into radical dissident mode.

God and Mammon

November 12, 2010

I read in different places that the United States is a Christian nation, that Americans are a deeply religious people, and that as a religious people, we are naturally conservative, since religion is conservative. But not one of these statements is true. We are not a Christian nation, neither legally nor spiritually; we are not religious; and religious people are not conservative—at least not in the conventional, thoughtless sense of the word.

When writers and commentators say that we are a religious nation they’re simply taking at face value the assertions of the self-described “religious.” In this country, we have an easy definition of religious. Essentially, it means anybody who says they believe in God. Atheists are content with the definition since they prefer that religion appear shallow. And the “religious” are content with it because it lets them off the hook. They don’t have to take on some extraordinarily difficult teachings. One notable example:

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

This is not a conservative idea; it’s a radical idea. It’s universal, unequivocal, and has many implications, few of which are ever addressed here in Western Civilization. One of its simpler meanings is that we shouldn’t desire “things.” And yet creating the desire for things is one of the basic tenets of our economics. Economists, businessmen, and politicians are deeply concerned with how we’re going to get people borrowing and spending again. We have to “grow the economy,” they say. And, as much as ever, the great majority of Americans believe that they should be enjoying an ever higher standard of living. When that doesn’t happen, somebody has to take the blame in the next election.

One of the problems with defining God as a being—the anthropomorphic idea of God—is that people can soften an idea like “you cannot love God and mammon,” by insisting that they do indeed love “the big guy” more than they love things. They can talk to Him and assure Him that they love Him more than money and then feel as though they’ve met the requirement. But if you consider God to be truth, the picture changes. Loving truth more than money means taking everything apart, examining it in detail, and living solely by principle. The deeper meaning of “You cannot serve God and mammon” actually means abandoning one’s materialist existence and following truth—never doing anything simply to make money. To those who would question this, I will point out that the lines immediately following “You cannot serve God and mammon” are, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, not about your body, what you shall put on.” (Jesus encouraged his disciples to leave their jobs and to become beggars.) Historically speaking, this idea is not at all strange. There are many people in many different cultures who have pursued it. It’s strange only to us here in the modern-day Western world, where power, comfort, and entertainment have become paramount. It’s not my point exactly to suggest that anybody renounce their livelihood and pursue this other way of life. But it might be helpful if people were to recognize that, as it currently stands, we are not really a religious people, that we are not really a Christian nation (we would have to follow the teachings of Christ to be that), and that religious ideas are not “conservative.” If we understood that much, it might be helpful in getting us to speak frankly with one another again.

Defining My Terms #1

October 25, 2010

I’ve been putting up a lot of posts that many people will consider “doom and gloom.” (See my previous post, for instance.) And I completely agree that it’s no good just to lay back and criticize without having something positive to offer. I do, in fact, believe there is hope. There isn’t any hope for our current way of doing things—that has quite nearly run its course now—but there is a path we can move to that does work. I believe we’re going to have one more chance to set things right. It may well be our last chance. I’ve been reluctant to get into these positive possibilities because of a problem with language. Words trigger automatic reactions in people’s minds—words like “terrorist,” “conservative,” “liberal,” “evil,” “socialist,” “pacifist.” They create images that are seldom useful for arriving at an understanding.

I keep seeing that one word I will have to use in any discussion of possibilities is “God.” The idea of God that most Americans argue over is the anthropomorphic idea of God, the creator God, the sometimes loving, sometimes angry guy in the robes and white beard who lives outside his creation and passes judgment on us all. This is the God that atheists love to ridicule and Christians feel compelled to promote and defend. As far as I can tell, it’s been a completely useless debate. Nobody is talking about anything real. God is, first of all, a word, a word that we use to discuss something that’s nearly impossible to discuss. The word really refers to the massive intelligence of the universe, the intelligence that is beyond physics and beyond intellectual comprehension. It doesn’t have a personality. It’s of a different order than that. I don’t believe that Jesus believed in this creator God. Those who surrounded him and who followed him did, but they never really understood what Jesus was talking about. And I don’t believe that Buddha was an atheist. Buddhists who say he was are either pointing out that he didn’t have a belief in a creator God, or they don’t know what they’re talking about. I find that there are just as many Buddhists who don’t understand their own religion as there are Christians who don’t understand theirs. Actually, there is no Christianity and there is no Buddhism. There is only one religion, and it has no name. Both Buddha and Christ saw and believed the same thing. (I use these two examples because, other than Lao Tzu, who is less known, they are the ones whom I’ve studied in greatest depth.)

Having said all that, my experience in conversation is that I can explain what I intend when I say “God,” and the next time I use the word, the person I’m talking to will immediately conjure up the image of the creator God. The image is so deeply imbedded. I could use terms like “the Great Spirit,” and I undoubtedly will. But “Great Spirit” often sounds affected to me. “God” is the word I almost always want to use. It’s simple and to the point—I wish. For those unfamiliar with this idea of God, I will add that it’s not of my own making. It’s ancient. There’s a more detailed exposition of my view in my book, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, in the chapter called “Consciousness Explained.”

Crisis Economics

May 26, 2010

I’m reading Crisis Economics by Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm. Roubini was the professor of economics who called the collapse of the economy several years before it happened. At the time he made his predictions, he was ridiculed. But it turned out that he was right on the money, so to speak. It’s an interesting book, even for someone who doesn’t really understand much of the time what Roubini is talking about. I’m with Henry Miller who asked, “But what makes money make money?” I just don’t understand.

As I read, one thing I notice is that Roubini’s underlying assumption is the same as the people he’s criticizing, namely that the most important human activity is economic. His issue with the businessmen who led the world into the abyss is simply that they were deluded about certain economic realities. I think that most Americans today—probably most people in the world today—would probably agree with the idea that economic activity, the creation of wealth, is our most important activity—which is to say that we live in a profoundly materialistic age. But it’s the road to ruin. The last crisis was a warning. We’re either going to let go of the chase gracefully or we’re going to be stopped, and in a most painful manner. “You cannot serve God and mammon.” It’s odd that they call this a Christian nation.

More on Politics and Religion

November 7, 2009

Jesus said you cannot love both God and mammon, for you will inevitably hate one and love the other. “God” does not mean some white-bearded dude up in the sky. “God” means truth, integrity, justice, and compassion. Mammon means money and fame. The trouble with the Democrats is that they attempt to love both, so they’re always in turmoil and confusion. The Republicans confine their love to mammon—to mammon alone. That’s why they’re able to be so disciplined. But it’s the path to ruin.