Thursday, May 17, 2007

I am God. No, wait, you are God.

I posted about this on NOM a little while back, but I wanted to comment on it here, too, so that I can always find it.

The University of Chicago Magazine published a fascinating article on how people tend to see themselves in agreement with God on moral issues. While this seems a truism at first--people naturally align their morals with what God "teaches" them--the interesting thing was that when those moral beliefs were manipulated in a laboratory setting, God's beliefs changed right along with them.

This has played out in my own life, where I cannot believe that God is an exclusivist when it comes to religions. At the same time, I saw God in a totally different way as a believing Mormon, and I can actually remember that.

My take-away from this is that "God's teachings" are synonymous with "your personal beliefs" in the majority of situations. Which means if someone says that "God wants us to do such-and-such," it's identical to saying "I want us to do such-and-such, and ALL CREATION agrees with me."

Seems like a hard pill to swallow if you're a believer in God. But then, you're different, right? You actually do understand what God teaches; the idea that you project your beliefs onto God is ludicrous...right?

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12 Comments:

Blogger Robert said...

There is one flaw in the idea that a person's belief in what God teaches is the same as what the person wants to believe. There is a measuring stick, if you want to call it that, for the truth called the gospel. Scripture lays out what God teaches. If someone came along and taught something completely contrary, then there are scriptures to compare it with, as Paul taught the Galatians, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." I am sure you would assert that modern-day revelations have conflicted with the Bible, or at least that some have conflicted with each other. I disagree, respectfully, that they disagree with each other. My main point, though, is that as long as people examine their beliefs against a source outside themselves, then they have a way to determine if it is from God or from their own thoughts. If they disregard the scriptures and just teach whatever they want, then yes, beliefs tend to come from personal desires. Also, as long as people tend to share their views in a setting such as a church, they have additional critical tools to evaluate their beliefs are normative rather than simply personal musings.

I appreciate that you do not see me as contentious. Thank you. It is ironic that you mentioned the recommend question in your previous posting thread. I came close to asking you if the words "Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow men?" meant anything to you. I didn't ask, because I am not trying to call you out as a heretic. I do see where both you and SS are coming from, or I think I understand at least.

May 17, 2007 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

But your "outside source" is circular. To a non-Christian/Jew, the Bible holds no divine meaning. So if a Christian decides that Hinduism is a better way, he will see God in that light and not hold Him/Her back using the Bible. In other words, you believe in the Bible and modern revelation (as literal portrayals of events, perhaps)--therefore they teach you about God. To me, they are collected writings of individuals attempting to capture the "meaning of life" as they saw it. As such, I do not use them to constrain what I would superimpose on God. If anything they reinforce your beliefs, and with them the belief that God agrees with you.

This isn't about what someone else tells you. If someone teaches something contrary to scripture, and you believe him then you will believe that God didn't mean the scriptures the way you used to think He meant them. See how that works? As a convert, I'm willing to wager that you have "changed" your understanding of some portions of the Bible. Maybe not, but many converts do. The Bible hasn't changed, but your beliefs about its message have. And of course, that new message is what God really teaches.

May 17, 2007 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

I have grown in my understanding of what the Bible teaches. That's a better way to state what my conversion has done for me. I did not have to relinquish any of my former beliefs, as none of them were inconsistent with the church. That might sound like a pragmatic rationalization, but it is simply the truth. As for whether non-Christians accept it or not is another affair. My point was that if a person who does believe in the Bible (or the standard works)checks himself against those sources, then they have a means by which to examine whether what they are saying is from their own mind or from an external source. If you, or anyone else, disregards the veracity of those materials - or more to the point, disputes it - then they are obviously free to believe what they want. The Buddhist can believe the divine is within (ironic that it falls somewhat close to the idea of divine potential), the Muslim can believe that Allah is the way to his virgins, and the atheist can believe he is the result of chaos and random events. They have that right, at least in this country. In fact, I've encountered someone who believed in the Norse Gods, Buddhism, and some parts of Judaism (to my best recollection). There's an a la carte religion for you of ever there was one. Still, those are people who have chosen different ideas of what to believe. I am saying that a person who chooses to accept the scriptures does have an external source to verify anything they want by. If tomorrow your bishop said, "We have been asked to throw cats out of our windows to show the aliens where to land." then you would be able to quickly discount his statement as nonsense (and hopefully, you would choose to call someone to get him help and quickly). Gospel is truth, and truth is gospel; the Holy Spirit testifies of truth. Again, it is a choice to accept that idea, but there is a definite source by which to verify anything you think may be coming from the Spirit or from yourself (or from anyone else trying to tell you what to do).

Sorry, I think I sounded a little preachy here. I was just giving a counterpoint to what you said. Take it for what you will.

May 17, 2007 at 1:49 PM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

You have just pointed out why there are so many religions out there. I believe that people do create gods to satisfy their particular wants and needs. It's easy to see why ancient people believed in plural gods that were individually identifiable with aspects of nature like the sun, moon, water, fire etc. We live in a world today where Muslim extremists believe that God wants them to saw the heads off Christians with dull knives.

So, because there are so many different conflicting messages out there about the nature of God, and as you pointed out, the nature of God seems to be awfully convenient alot of the time, does that mean there is no God? Or that we cannot trust what we've been taught to believe about him?

It always ammuses me to hear people make statements like, "I refuse to accept a god who allows children to go hungry" or " I don't believe in a god who wouldn't allow women to hold the priesthood" Or as you said, " I cannot believe that God is an exclusivist when it comes to religions."

But if there is a real, one and only God it's not really up to us what he is like, or what he allows, or how he chooses to run his Church or priesthood is it? He just is what he is. The fact that we accept or reject him doesn't change him. If God is male, but we'd rather believe he is female, that doesn't change him...it just makes us wrong.

You can deny the LDS Church because you have decided that you won't accept their version of a God who is religiously exclusive. I have to point out that for a religion that's so exclusive we sure do alot of missionary work trying to include not exclude people. How many LDS were in New Orleans when Katrina hit? Yet our trucks of supplies were on the road from SLC before the hurricane even hit, and were the first to arrive. Exclusive? Anyway got off track, that's beside the point.

I look at your complaint about the Priesthood only being allowed to males. But, if God is God and that's how he chooses to run his Church than that's it. One may not understand, or disagree with it, but that doesn't change it. You don't have to accept it, you have your free agency.

The bottom line comes right down to having a testimony and faith. Without those you can delve into all the philosphy you want but still never have the answer. Many never had or have lost their testimony, or thought they had one and have explained it away with their own intellect and psycho analysis of feelings and emotions. They have taken the teachings of the Church which they don't understand, and have refused to exercise faith. Instead they want to twist those teachings and doctrines into what they see as negative falsehoods. Instead of humbly seeking to understand, they have turned to intellectual pride to deride and revile.

Bottom line again comes down to faith and testimony. Nobody can prove anything to each other by bantering over the internet. It always just gets reduced to two kids arguing back and forth, did too! Did not! Did tooooo! Did nooooot!

May 18, 2007 at 7:20 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Robert ~

Did you believe in a religion before the LDS one? If so, what did you believe about the Godhead?

Shadow Spawn ~

It is interesting to me to note that the Father in Heaven we learn about at the One True Church is who he is. Not very impressive, if you ask me. You say whether we like it or not, he's still God, and we are wrong if we don't like what he does as God.

Let's review what we know of God:

Imagine a parent who has many children, and he sends them out of his presence to prove themselves. After erasing their memories of their lives before, he decides not to ever tell them one thing about their mother. He tells only some of them they should pray to him to make him happy. Others he sends into homes and societies that have no idea about any God, let alone him. He gives the true gospel knowledge to only a very small percentage of them, and not until centuries have passed with people having no clue of him. Then he claims that if any of them reject what those few say, then they will be unable to live in his presence again.

Our God has left millions and millions of his children throughout history in the dust, if we are to believe that the one way back to God is through receiving all the ordinances on this earth that are required to live in the celestial kingdom again with God in his presence. Don't feed me the line that if they are good in their hearts, they will obviously accept the missionary lessons in the next life. I've known too many good people who reject the message here, who are more worthy than anyone to attain celestial glory.

What kind of an absentee father is our God, anyway? I'm not impressed.

May 18, 2007 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

SML -

This is exactly what I was talking about. I don't want to get into a debate on the existence of God. That's an impossible argument. Like I said, it all comes down to faith and testimony.

But, you help to make my point. You just rattled off a list of things that you've been taught to believe about God that you are in conflict with, therefore since you don't like those things you have decided to not be impressed. That's fine don't be impressed you have been given free agency.

Personally I think the sun is too bright, too hot, stays in the sky too long...except in winter, then it's not bright or warm enough and is too rare in the sky. I reject the sun. I refuse to acknowledge the sun anymore since I don't like the way it goes about doing things!

The point I'm trying to make is it doesn't matter what we think God is. If there is a God then all the thinking on our part about what he should or shouldn't be, or how he should do things is irrelevant. What is relevant is that we do find him, if he exists.

Hypothetically speaking suppose that the one true god was Oden One Eye. Or Thor viking god of war. Well, does it do me any good to be a pacifist then just because I don't agree with war? How far is that going to get me if my final judgement is going to be in front of Thor?

I feel bad for you that your view of God is so negative. I feel God's love for me on a daily basis and this helps me and comforts me. In response to your captious complaints about an absentee father:

In my belief in the end, all who are ever born on this earth will have not only the opportunity to accept the Gospel, but to know of its truth. Even someone like yourself who has been a member for years and has now walked away. Well, obviously you never really did recieve a testimony or knowledge of the truth of the Gospel. Someday you will know and will recieve the chance to accept it still. While on my mission I was rejected countless times, but I don't think those people who rejected me are evil and I know they will eventually be given an opportunity to know and accept the truth.

May 18, 2007 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Oh, I felt testimony all right, SS. I think that our idea of what testimony is differs, however. So I won't debate that.

You are correct. I don't admire the petulant-little-boy-style God that is revered in the Mormon church. If he exists, he will know why I don't admire him. And I'm certain he will love me unconditionally for who I am as he sends me to Outer Darkness for eternity.

:)

I agree with Uj about how we all tend to attribute beliefs to God that jive with what we believe. Look at the Blacks and the priesthood issue...Joseph Smith ordained Elijah Abel a Seventy and he had the priesthood in full. Then along comes Brigham Young in all his racist glory. HE KNEW that God felt that blacks should not hold the priesthood, and Elijah Abel was S.O.L. Many many other prophets after him felt the same way about Blacks, and therefore so did God, right?

But then someone (or God) changed his mind.

Interesting...

May 18, 2007 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

You bring up the blacks and the priesthood. Was racism at the heart of it? I'm sure it was. Does that make God a racist?

It's too easy to genralize what happened and to look past the socialogical circumstances of the times, and only think of the issue in today's political and social context. I know what you're thinking, "So God would allow social circumstances to characterize his policies?" That's not what I'm saying.

I think of it this way.

1- Never has the Church claimed the prophets were perfect. In fact, we know they are fallible men with faults.

2- In my opinion God never considered blacks to be unworthy, although many in the Church, including leaders made that assumption. They never bothered to ask the Lord, because it was an assumed thing based on the social circumstances they were raised in and lived in at the time. Had Brigham Young actually asked The Lord rather than assume, he may have been surprised at the answer.

3-The percentage of blacks in the early Church was very small. I imagine it still is in today's Church. The occurance of a black man requesting the priesthood was probably a rare occasion, and the issue just was not as pressing as it would be in the same political and social climate we see today.

4-As time went on and the leadership began to see a rising tide of concern over this issue the prophet made the decision to go to The Lord. I imagine The Lord thinking, "it's about time."

Who knows? Maybe under similar circumstances women will be able to hold the priesthood some day. And just as in 1978 many people in the Church may have to go through a major testimony check.

May 18, 2007 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

Sorry for double post. Forgot to comment on this:

You are correct. I don't admire the petulant-little-boy-style God that is revered in the Mormon church. If he exists, he will know why I don't admire him. And I'm certain he will love me unconditionally for who I am as he sends me to Outer Darkness for eternity.

I think you see a petulant-little-boy-style God because that's what you choose to see. It fits into your current agenda, and makes you feel better about your desision to leave the Church. Try reading more of the scriptures, and doctrines. The God revered by the Church goes much deeper than your little peevish description of him.

I don't think you have to worry about outer darkness. God does love you unconditionally. He loves you enough to have given you your free agency to act as you will. And in the end God doesn't send you anywhere. You'll end up sending yourself to where you end up.

May 18, 2007 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

SS: You are spot on--if God exists in an absolute sense, his/her traits are independent of my opinions about the same. I can no more change the actual God than I can change a dog into a cat.

But if an actual specific dog exists, I can discern that it is not a cat by inter-subjective observation. Once two humans have agreed on the primacy of sensory data and the definition of "dog" and "cat" there can be absolute agreement when confronted with a particular instance of a dog.

God, of course, isn't like that. Very, very few people even claim to have seen God. So people "feel" things about God. There is not intersubjectivity. And, as this study shows, people's personal feelings, as they change, are reflected in God's teachings, which change right along with them. This isn't surprising, given that God is the measuring stick for how you value yourself. If you truly, deeply believed that racism was wrong, how could you believe that God was a racist? I don't think you could, unless you thought God was bad. And that would make existence bad.

This is different from stealing, but thinking God is unhappy when you steal. In actuality, you are also unhappy when you steal in this situation. You are in conflict with yourself. If you thought you were justified in your stealing (through and through, such as stealing ammunition from an opposing army), you would be certain that God agreed with you. So God's not really like the Sun, which you cannot influence by your feelings about it, and which everyone around you can agree upon the temperature and brightness of.

May 18, 2007 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

SS ~

I have no agenda, beyond saying out loud (writing out loud?) what I think. That is what you are doing here as well, I believe.

You are very good at using certain words to dig at people and to show your disdain of them. Why do you do that?

May 18, 2007 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

SML,

I grew up Methodist, and I as very active when I joined the LDS Church (Methodist Men's President, Sunday School Teacher, led two Bible studies). I believed (and still believe) that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Spirit were(are) three separate beings. I never fully understood until I was joining this church that the Trinity was meant to suggest they are all one being. My father (still a Methodist) also believes as I do about the Godhead. As does Margaret Barker (a seminary teacher in England for the Methodist Church). Yet the official "doctrine" of the Methodist church is the Trinity. Go figure. The Methodist theology is, obviously, fairly open to interpretation. What I believed then was not invalidated by what I believe now. None of it was struck void. It was simply extended.

Now, talk about what you missed in a few days, I saw three posts on this particular thread when I left six hours ago to go to the temple and do some work (four and a half hour drive, hour of work), and there have been TWELVE posts to this blog alone. Who's been busy? I'm still catching up.

May 18, 2007 at 5:04 PM  

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