As a human being, you can’t avoid dealing with God

By Kim Michaels

 

Any discussion has to have a starting point, but when it comes to discussing the topics of God and religion, it is extremely difficult to chose a starting point that will not offend some people. And right there, we have our starting point. We can acknowledge that the topics of God and religion tend to elicit strong reactions in people. 

What do we accomplish by acknowledging this? We see that an intricate, unavoidable and inherent part of being human is to deal with the topic of God and how we relate to God. We also see that because of the many different reactions to the topic – or should we say the innumerable disagreements and conflicts – the topic of God is not an easy one. 

This now leads us to a new definition of God, one you probably didn’t hear in Sunday school: God is the supreme challenge for human beings. As a human being, you simply cannot avoid dealing with the topic of God. And since religion so often claims to have the only right way for you to deal with the topic of God, you can scarcely avoid dealing with the topic of religion either. 

I am quite aware that some people will disagree with these statements. They will say that to them God is simply an irrelevant topic that they have long ago dismissed as the product of superstition. Hm? So are these people saying that dismissing God as superstition is not a way of dealing with the topic of God? 

Do you see my point? God is a topic that all human beings have to deal with—one way or another. So the really interesting question is how we deal with it. But let us be a bit more specific.

 

What does it mean to be human?

We have seen that a central aspect of being human is to deal with the topic of God and religion. At this point, many people would say that we need to focus our attention on these two topics. However, I would like to take a different approach. I would like to start by taking a look at the question of what it means to be human. After all, we are the ones who have to deal with the topic of God and religion, so it seems logical that if we don’t know what or who we are, we can’t really get started on an intelligent discussion.

So what is a human being? What does it mean to be human, to be alive? Well, after contemplating and studying this topic for many years, the simplest definition I can come up with is this: Human beings are experience “machines.” The essence of being human is that we are conscious, we are aware, but what are we conscious of? Well, many would say we are conscious of our surroundings, the universe and life. We go through life experiencing life. I don’t disagree with this, but we can go a bit deeper by asking where this experience takes place?

You may see God as a being that is outside of you, possibly in a remote heaven. You may see religion as an external force that is seeking to control your thinking. You may see the universe as an external environment in which you live. Yet your “seeing” God, religion and the universe this way is an experience that takes place inside your mind, heart and being.

This has many ramifications, and we will look at all of them later. Yet for now, what I want to point out is that you are a conscious being who is experiencing “life,” you are having a “life experience.” That experience is taking place inside your mind, and this leads us to a very important question that most people have never asked themselves.

You see, your life experience is often focused on conditions outside yourself, such as other people or specific circumstances in your life. This has led many people to essentially go through life seeing themselves as victims of external circumstances. In other words, they believe that their life experience – the experience that takes place inside themselves – is completely and utterly determined by conditions that exist outside themselves. We might even go so far as to say that we humans have been programmed to think that the only way for us to be happy is to have certain external circumstances. Yet here is the question that most people never ask: Is it logical that our life experience – which takes place, I might have mentioned, inside ourselves – is completely and exclusively determined by what happens outside ourselves?”

In other words, is it possible that our life experience is a product of two factors. One is the external circumstances we face in the material world, but the other is the internal circumstances that exist in our own minds. As an illustration of this, consider what happens if you put on a pair of yellow glasses. Suddenly, the sky looks green. Surely, you are not going to believe that the sky actually is green, but the reason for that is that you have seen the sky without the glasses. Now imagine that you took a baby and placed permanent, yellow contact lenses on its eyes. This person would grow up seeing everything through the yellow lenses, and thus he or she would actually believe that the sky is green. Imagine that you have a conversation with this person and try to convince him or her that the sky really is blue. The person would likely say. “What do you mean the sky is blue? The sky is green—I am seeing it with my own eyes.”

My point is that we might have internal conditions in our minds that “color” how we see the world and thus have a fundamental impact on our life experience. Why is this important? Well, for starters, it can help us develop a new understanding of why the topics of God and religion so often lead to disagreements and conflicts between people. 

How is it possible that a fundamentalist Muslim can be convinced that by killing the enemies of Islam, he will be rewarded with 70 virgins in heaven—as if any condition on Earth can threaten God? How is it possible that a fundamentalist Christian can be convinced that only members of his or her church will go to heaven—meaning no one could have been saved before Jesus? How is it possible that an atheist can be absolutely convinced that people’s belief in God is a product of superstition, whereas his belief that there is no God is an irrefutable fact? 

Well, the unavoidable answer is that these firm beliefs are the products of people’s life experience, which includes both the external factors of their environment and the internal factors of their minds, the factors that determine how they respond to their environment. This explains why three people can grow up in a religious culture, and one becomes a believer, another an agnostic and the third an atheist. They were all exposed to very similar external conditions, so the difference in their reactions can only be explained by their internal conditions.

 

How do you want your life experience to be?

Where does this lead us? Well, it leads us to a very important realization, because we now see why the topic of God is such a great challenge for human beings. The simple fact – often overlooked by both religious people and non-religious people – is that we cannot develop our relationship with God by looking only at God and religion—by looking only outside ourselves. 

In order to develop a mature relationship with God, we have to also look at the conditions inside ourselves. We have to be willing to consider how our own minds “color” the way we look at and approach the topics of God and religion.

Incidentally, this is taught in the original teachings of most of the world’s religions, although it has often been obscured by “official” doctrines and dogmas. For example, Buddhism makes it clear that the cause of human suffering is found in the mind. And Jesus told his followers to be willing to look first at the beam in their own eyes instead of always looking outside themselves.

We can now gain a new way of looking at this discussion. As I said, we human beings can’t avoid dealing with the topics of God and religion—they are part of our life experience. So the question now becomes how you personally want God and religion to influence your life experience? Do you want these topics to enhance your life experience or do you want them to limit your life experience?

If you want God and religion to enhance your life experience, then you need to consider that the determining factor is not found outside yourself but inside yourself. It is your internal conditions that determine how you have so far responded to the topics of God and religion—as they were presented to you by the culture(s) to which you have been exposed.Thus, if you want God and religion to have a more positive influence on your life experience, you need to take a look at these internal conditions. By changing your approach to God and religion, you can change how you respond to external stimuli, and thus you will change your life experience.

When you realize that you are an experience machine, it follows that you experience life through the filter of your mind, your consciousness. The conditions in your mind – such as your beliefs about life – will color how you respond to external conditions, and thus they will have as much or more influence on your life experience than what happens outside of you. 

In reality, you are not a machine, for a real machine has no self-awareness. The very fact that you are having a life experience and that you can experience conditions as pleasant or non-pleasant shows that you have self-awareness. It follows that you have an option that a real machine does not have—you can change how you function. You can use your self-awareness top take a look at your internal conditions and determined how they influence your life experience. If you don’t like the outcome, you can chose to consciously change your internal conditions. I would argue that religion in its pure form is meant to give you the tools for enhancing your life experience by empowering you to consciously change your internal conditions. If your experience with religion has been that religion limits your life experience, this book will help you develop a different approach.

 

The turning point

We have now arrived at the first of several turning points. The situation is simple. If you are not willing to acknowledge that the internal conditions of your own mind have influenced the way you look at God and religion, and if you are not willing to consider how you might change those conditions and improve your life experience, this book simply has nothing to offer you. 

One of the things I hate most about religion is that it offers people such an easy excuse for closing their minds and refusing to look a the beam – the internal conditions – in their own eyes. We will later take a closer look at this, but if you are one of the people who have used religion to justify closing your mind  – and when I say religion, I include the religion of scientific materialism – then I simply have nothing to offer you. If you think you already know everything you need to know about God or religion – if you think your present view of God is the only true, rational or possible view – then what could I possibly say that would expand your life experience? 

My point being that if you continue to read this book, I assume you are at least somewhat open to considering how the internal conditions of your own mind have influence how you have so far responded to the topics of God and religion.

 

 

Copyright © 2011 Kim Michaels

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