Saturday, June 20, 2015

Religion and God

A couple of paragraphs from the introduction of Karen Armstrong's ``A History of God''. I agree with the main point of the first paragraph below and rephrase it: Religion is one type of activity that aims at ``experiencing'' the source of meaning-creation in the depth of human psyche, and in this sense is very similar to art.
Men and women started to worship gods as soon as they became recognizably human; they created religion at the same time as they created works of art. This was not simply because they wanted to propitiate powerful forces; these early faiths expressed the wonder and mystery that seems always to have been an essential component of the human experience of this beautiful yet terrifying world. Like art, religion has been an attempt to find meaning and value in life, despite the suffering that flesh is heir to. Like any other human activity, religion can be abused, but it seems to have been something that we have always done. It was not tacked on to a primordially secular nature by manipulative kings and priests but was natural to humanity. Indeed, our current secularism is an entirely new experiment, unprecedented in human history. ... our Western liberal humanism is not something that comes naturally to us; like an appreciation of art or poetry, it has to be cultivated. Humanism is itself a religion without God---not all religions ... are theistic. ---p.xix, A History of God

It appears to me that as human consciousness has emerged, we became more aware of our "self" as opposed to the outside world (the first form of separation), and simultaneously in our inner world, we became aware of our logical/rational/conscious mind processes that could be directed toward manipulating and solving problems as opposed to deeper sub-/unconscious processes in our mind that would clearly manifest in our dreams and in our feelings and emotions (the second form of separation). Because the source of meaning creation is in the subconscious part, we have always felt the urge to keep and develop a connection to those areas in the form of art and religion.

I emphasize the correspondence between a person's inner world and the images/maps that construct its fabric, one one hand, and the outside world and its relation to that person, on the other hand. I see a circle here which requires two contact points. One is the obvious connection through our senses and sensory inputs. I think there is another point of connection which is quite far from our perception and in which the deepest part of our psyche connects to a cosmic sense of outside world. A point of singularity, that we may call God!

When I began to research this history of the idea and experience of God in the three monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, I expected to find that  God had simply been a projection of human needs and desires. ... that ``he'' would mirror the fear and yearnings of society at each stage of its development. My predictions were not entirely unjustified, but I have been extremely surprised by some of my findings ... Other rabbis, priests, and Sufis would have taken me to task for assuming that God was---in any sense---a reality ``out there''; they would have warned me not to expect to experience him as an objective fact that would be discovered by the ordinary process of rational thought. They would have told me that in an important sense God was a product of the creative imagination, like the poetry and music that I found so inspiring. A few highly respected monotheists would have told me quietly and firmly that God did not really exist---and yet that ``he'' was the most important reality in the world. ---p. xx, A History of God

The last few lines are quite amazing!

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