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Making sense of suffering

How does one make sense of large scale suffering, like that of global disasters, Auschwitz, or even cyclical poverty? Is that God’s not-so-fine handiwork?

This TED Talk by Rev. Tom Honey, introduces a different idea about God that is well-known in intellectual theological circles, but not so well known outside of this.

Rev. Honey challenges the traditional conception of God as a “male boss”… a “celestial controller, a rule maker, a policeman in the sky who orders everything, and causes everything to happen.”


Honey poses some interesting questions:

  • Is God “‘The wind and waves obey Him.’ Do they?”  … “Is God in control?” … “if God can or will do these things — intervene to change the flow of events — then surely he could have stopped the tsunami.”???
  • Does God demand loyalty, like any medieval tyrant?  A God who looks after His own, so that Christians are OK, while everyone else perishes? A cosmic us and them, and a God who is guilty of the worst kind of favoritism?… Such a God would be morally inferior to the highest ideals of humanity.”
  • “But what if God doesn’t act? What if God doesn’t do things at all? What if God is in things? The loving soul of the universe. An in-dwelling compassionate presence, underpinning and sustaining all things. What if God is in things? … In presence and in absence. In simplicity and complexity. In change and development and growth.”
  • “Isn’t it ironic that Christians who claim to believe in an infinite, unknowable being then tie God down in closed systems and rigid doctrines?” Could ‘I don’t know’ “be the most profoundly religious statement of all”?

I think this notion of God is sweet like honey 😉

Richard Dawkins and WHAT is God?

Interesting interview on SBS with Richard Dawkins last night. Stream it at this address:

I left this comment and thought I’d share it with you:

There is a God VS there is no God.. haven’t we forgotten to define WHAT is it we refer to as “GOD”???

I was a fundamentalist Christian for 20 years but now having rejected it I am getting closer to “God”.

In evolution I see “God”. In intuition I hear “God”. God is not a man in the sky (I think even fundamentalists agree with this) “He” is the personification of creative energy behind life. Atheists prefer not to personify it.

Can we please just expose the manipulative dogmas and seek truth?

I would love to hear YOUR thoughts on this stuff…

Below are personal reflections written a couple of years ago when I was searching for answers.


All monotheistic religions believe there is only one God. One transcendent being that is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), and omnipresent (present everywhere.)

God, most of us acknowledge, is of a complexity beyond our mind’s capacity to ever fully understand. “He” or it, is a power beyond words our language offers us, a mystery that will always surround us but which until death we will never fully solve.

God’s name

In Spanish the word for God is Dios. In French it is Dieu. In Greek Theos. In Hebrew, Elohim. In Japanese it is Goezur, in Italian Dio, Malay Alla, Latin Deus, Peruvian Puchecammae, Persian Sire, Russian Bojh, In Syriac, Turkish and Arabic, it is Allah. Just as we say cold, the Spanish sayfrio, and Japanese samui, all refer to the same thing. When Muslims call out to Allah, they are calling out to God, but in their language. If they were to pray in English, they could call Allah God, and if we were to pray in Turkish, we would call God Allah. Different words for God doesn’t mean we pray to different gods.

God is on my side

The words Allah and God cognate two very different images of God in our minds, but why? It is due to the fact that most people in Turkey, Syria and Arabia, have been brought up Muslim, and most people in England, America and Australia, brought up to be Christian, that Allah is thought to be the god of Islam, and God, the god of Christianity. But this is wrong, both words mean God. I’m not saying that the Muslim God and the Christian God are one and the same God. No. They are two different civilizations attempts to know the same mysterious power behind life, of which both there is only one.

Islam and Christianity are based on different interpretations of someone else’s God-inspired teachings. The discrepancy between the two religions comes down to the credibility Mohammed and Jesus, the credibility of the writers who documented their stories, the credibility of their followers that continued to spread their words, and the credibility and accuracy of theologians who have interpreted these narratives into the creeds many people so strongly believe today.

Different interpretations of God’s will for different people at different times has led to each religions’ different beliefs about how to communicate with God, our life’s purpose, ideologies about how society should be run, what constitutes good morals etc, and God’s eternal plan for who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Aren’t these differences simply reflecting different civilizations in different times focusing on this one transcendent power behind our existence: worshiping it, praising it, praying to it, being inspired by it, wanting to please it and gain protection and direction from it? Surely if we can just recognize this common goal, and humbly admit our own nature as fallible humans who cannot fully comprehend this power, we have a stronger base to think through our own conceptions and ideas about God, and learn from each other’s?

Dear Christians

Does it really make sense that your God would only reveal himself to the Israelites, one small group of people who exited Egypt around 3000 years ago? What about all the people that lived before the Israelites? What about the Sumerians and Egyptians, the Indian and Chinese, the Indigenous peoples of Americas and Australia? Does God not care to have a relationship with these people too? Why would he bother creating them then?

Does it make sense that the only way to have a relationship directly with God, is by believing in Jesus? Does it really make sense that God would make the condition of entering a relationship with him be based on accepting a number of statements only available to a small percentage of the population? Is God not powerful enough to forgive without creating aformula of sacrifice and forgiveness? Wouldn’t “he” want to have a relationship with all “his” creations?

When you think of God, what image come to mind? A king? A judge? A man or woman sitting on a throne in a golden castle? This is an image but is this what you really believe God is? Does God experience days, and time? Time on earth only exists because of earth’s rotation around the sun and on its axis, so how is it in heaven? Is there a past, present and future in Heaven? Does God sit on his throne reminiscing the past – those good ol’days when Lucifer was his right-hand angel? Does God think back fondly to the times when his creation was perfect, the times when we were his obedient human creations that had not yet sinned?

Does he think about what went wrong, and wonder how he could have allowed himself to be so betrayed? Does he wish he’d used his omniscience and omnipotence to stop it? If he is omnipotent then can’t he do that now? I know we explain this by saying he wanted it to happen, because he wanted us to have choice, does that mean he is disappointed in our choice? But, can you imagine God of most power, actually feeling disappointed and sad? If you were all powerful, would you really take things so personally? Or would your ego be quite ok without needing other’s praise and acceptance?

What would the point be for God to set up such a grand narrative: throwing Satan out of heaven, planning a battle between good and evil whereby we, his special human creations, must choose which side we want to be on? All this bother when he is already “all-knowing” and knows that in the end he will win – and those that chose good will be saved and live for eternity with him. Why did he do it? Why would he bother? Just so that he could have friends? Weren’t the angels his friends? Is it because he was bored?

I guess eternal life of peace might get boring. In a place free of conflict – a place of pure peace and tranquility where every day you feel safe and happy – I think I too would eventually pick a fight with someone, fire things up, just make life interesting again… Could the narrative of a battle between Satan and God be a mythological representation of this ongoing conflict between yin and yang? Did “God” “create” each of these opposites simply in order to write a more exciting story fo the world? The universe is constructed with protons and electrons, which combine together in different combinations to create different elements which combine to create different forms of matter. + and -. It’s like binary code of a computer 0s and 1s. Necessary opposites. It is the balance of opposites that make up for me the wonder of life.

“God” created this myriad of experiences available to us, so that life can be experienced to the full, in whichever way we want. God is more creative, clever and powerful than we give him credit for. In my mind “He” is not some ego maniac king demanding praise and creating hard-to-belief formulas with the requirement for us to believe it, so that when we die, we can meet him and become his servants in heaven. This image sounds like something people living in these type of conditions on earth would have imagined. Think about it, does it really make sense?

How can we believe God is omnipotent if we believe Satan to be a serious threat to our salvation? How can we believe God is omniscient, knowing already who will be in heaven, yet simultaneously believe we have free choice? The only way this can make sense to me is through the omnipresence of “God” when freed from human-constructed conceptions of “His” form.

How I imagine “God”

If God is present everywhere then isn’t “he” in every cell of our body and every spec of matter in our universe?And hence if we are in God and God is in us, can we not derive that the universe IS God. God may be bigger than the universe too, we can never know what’s outside our universe, but we can know that God is everythingin this universe.

I see “God” in the middle of “His” process of self-creative evolution. We humans might even be God in his most creative and dynamic expression to date. More recent developments in this creation process have led to an individualistic self-awareness, whereby we have developed complex minds that construct and deconstruct the realities around us. This is a magnificent part of God’s creative expression, yet in the process we have taken an interesting turn. We are born into a world that teaches us we are separate: separate from each other, separate from nature, and most important, separate from God. This separateness has led to creation of an ego. Our ego has positives and negatives. It allows a greater breadth of feelings, yet is also the cause of loneliness, fear, and confusion. Through self-analysis we have lost sight of what we are and what is our purpose. Our separateness feels like an eternal separateness, and most of all we fear what will happen when we die.

Our purpose in life, as an expression of God, is to continue our collective godly process of creation. To do this we must reconnect with our true self, this means listening to the voice deep within each of us and taking comfort in the fact that all of us are separate yet one. We are all expressions of God, and together we are God. God is you, me, humanity, all life, and the entire universe and beyond – we are all God.

When we realize this, we will realise that peace is possible. This paradigm shift is consistent with all religions, and sciences. Ultimately we are all matter, and in a reality that mind-body-spirit between man, animal and plant, all connect in ways we do not yet understand. Developments in quantum physics, in discovering your intuition, connect to Buddhism, connect to mysticism, connect to the teachings of Jesus, Mohammad, Abraham, Buddha and all the other spiritual gurus of the past and of today.

If we open our minds to an image of God that is not the symbolic one we have grown up with, if we recognise our interpretations are fallible, if we accept that “God” is an incredible entity of which we are a part of even if “He” is not a person and exists in a form that no words can describe – then I think we can truly discover a relationship with God/Our Universe, that so many wise teachers have described.

If we wish to forego our egos, we can return to the oneness of God – just as Buddhists do when they meditate into blissful enlightenment. But egos are also a source of pleasure and competition which spurs creativity. Maybe egos are also good, as long as it’s kept in perspective of the oneness which we are more deeply a part of. I don’t know – what do you think??? (comments??)

Ego or no ego I believe we are simultaneously God’s creation and God’s creators, and we have a purpose: to create! This means we can transform this world and universe to the one we want it to be. How? Well we can start by reconnecting with each other, increasing awareness of our egos, and designing a vision, a blueprint, of the reality we want to create.

Oh, and if you are interested in the comment from Pat Robertson (a leading evangelical in the US) that said Haiti experienced the quake because of their “pact with the devil”, I found the snippet from his interview on youtube:



And when it comes to Atheists – don’t you think they have a right NOT to personify this power if they don’t want to? What difference should it make to anyone else if some people personify it while others talk about it in the scientific terms they decide to delegate to it? Richard Dawkins may be a little derogatory in his approach but he makes a good point – at least he is going about his pursuit of truth through words not war.

When it comes to the crunch we are all incredibly complex beings inside an incredibly complex universe constructed by an incredibly powerful creative energy – personified as God or described as a series of Supernovas – aren’t we all just using different words and conceptions to describe the same thing?



The Religion Debate

1. “Is there or isn’t there a God?”

2. “Is my god the True God or is yours?”

These debates are entirely based on one’s definition of the word “God.” So, shouldn’t we be a little more focused on the question as to what is God???

People define God in different ways, and then we call those different definitions “different gods”… but they are not. They are different definitions of God. Different interpretations of God. Different personifications of God – or a decision not to personify the force behind evolution.

That’s why religious debates don’t get anywhere – they have become identity battles that disregard the linguistics they are based on.

Why do religions still claim to know the “real God” and that everyone else has been deceived into believing in “fake gods”? Why do atheists debate that “there is no God” rather than explaining to theists that they are simply choosing not to personify the force behind evolution while accepting that some people prefers a more personal construct? Does not a rose by any other name still smell as sweet?

I don’t think any religions still believe God is a super human-like man sitting above the clouds. We know how big the universe is. We know the mountains don’t hold up the sky and we know that angels aren’t moving our sun, moon and stars into their place at night. Religions imagine God as a transcendent being that is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), and omnipresent (present everywhere) – so might we consider the physics of such a claim… is it not a cause to consider quantum physics and what that might be telling us about the “mind of God”???

Sure, we are not useless consequences of some set random manifestations reacting to other random manifestations of a single particle of matter, which appeared from nowhere. But nor are we hand designed by a super-human who lives above us reading our every thought and watching our every move, awaiting the day he or she wishes to bring us into his realm or cut the rope, destroy life on earth and reward “His” chosen people with eternal life in heaven – simply based on the background of the family one was born into. This concept no longer makes sense in my mind anyway.

Something greater than us exists. There is something more than what we see. We are a tiny little component of a fantastical, expanding, creative universe. The ultimate unexplainable creative force behind the evolution of life; the energetic force that caused the first cell to split into two; the power behind and inside everything that exists, and everything that doesn’t… the power we can label The Universe, or as has been done throughout history we can personify as God, Allah, Dios, YHWH, the great “I Am”, Krishna, Bhagwan, Zeus etc. etc… is quite an incredible power, and almost just as incredible is our ability to be conscious of this force, to be aware of it, to be in awe of it. I don’t see anything wrong with personifying this force differently depending on our understanding of ourselves in a culture and at different points history, but essentially (and quite obviously no?) we are personifying the same force. The Jewish name YHWH, which means I AM, makes a lot more sense than most definitions. There is what there is, and that is God, that is The Universe.

I speak of “God” and I speak of “The Universe”, depending on my mood. I still pray. I still speak to “God” and I understand that the “person” I speak to is my personification of an abstract unknowable force, and I’m ok with that. In fact I even see some value in it, a personal interface to an abstract energy.

“My religion has done some good, so can’t we just forget the murderous bad it’s done these last couple of millennia?” Forgiveness is one thing but I’m not so sure the Inquisitions, the Crusades and the myriad “missions” imposed on indigenous peoples around the world are not exactly easy to forget.

But what is most important is the future: is a religion causing good today, or is it still a source of violence? If a religion can see itself in its historical perspective, and not make exclusivist claims over their particular personification of God or about their particular interpretations of physical and spiritual realms; and if they can avoid using their connection with people’s identity as a cause for destruction – they can be a cause for good. But if this perspective can’t be found then maybe the atheists are right… maybe it is better for religion to end. It all comes down to the clarity from which a religion can bring, to one’s creative purpose in life. Can religion be a force for good? Maybe.

Coming back to those debates:

1. “Is there or isn’t there a God?” Yes AND No. Yes if you personify the energy behind life, and no if you prefer to refer to it in a scientific, abstract form.

2. “My God or your god?” Mine AND Yours. Surely we can accept the cultural roots of different personifications developed throughout history, and understand that they were “right” and “true” in their day, and that there is something to learn from all of them.

Can someone please explain to me why, when the human mind is capable of thinking through these questions logically and we know these debates are based on a loaded word that is not properly understood, are we still debating them?

Isn’t it time to look for the meaning of our evolution, the meaning of our place in this universe, the meaning of our connection to “God”, our connection to What Is? To look at how this impacts on our lives today, and how it can provide a positive impact on our lives in the future?

I think these are more important questions that would be much more beneficial to society than illogical ego-driven debates over identity… but what do I know 🙂