Category Archives: God

Tuned in: Testing God once again

There is an interesting blog titled “A Year Without God” which caught my attention a few months ago. It is a provocative blog that describes a former Adventist pastor deciding to live a year as if God did not exist .   He says in one of his posts titled “Where I stand: a six-month report” that he does not believe in God because of lack of empirical evidence.  These are his exact words :

I don’t see how there is any empirical, scientific evidence for God’s existence.I don’t see any evidence for any recognizable pattern of God’s interaction in the world. I don’t think the Bible records anything more than ancient people’s search for the divine.”  (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yearwithoutgod/)

This is a  powerful and bold statement regarding the possible existence or non-existence of an all powerful being.   Although I understand his point of view, I also tend to be cautious and vigilant about any conclusions I make about that which possibly created my mind in the first place.  I sometimes ask myself :  Can the cartoon character conclude that there is no cartoonist?  Can the painting prove that there is no such thing as a painter?  I cannot reach such a bold conclusion if I am not capable of fully understanding what the universe is all about and what other people are perceiving and experiencing.  It is true that we may not be able to “prove” the existence of God by using physical evidence that only our five senses can detect.  But do we have only five senses?

Having said this, I am currently in a position in my life where I felt the need to get on my knees and plead for an answer.  I have been evolving in my spiritual journey, from being a catholic, to a pentecostal fundamentalist, to a more liberal reflective Christian.    For the past two to three years, I have gradually distant myself from the traditional Christian faith.  I chose to liberate myself from living a fundamental religious lifestyle, and adopt a more liberal and inclusive approach.   I have learned a lot from other faiths and traditions in this journey of mine.  You can read more about this spiritual journey in the following posts:  Spiritual Roller coaster,  Is this all there is to Life?, Am I Losing Faith?, Embarrassed by the Church, How NOT to be a Good Christian,  Religiously Correct. 

I am not ashamed to say this, because I also believe that doubt and skepticism can be utilized to learn more about the true nature of my existence, and also about God, as I am capable of understanding Him.

To make a long story short, I recently encountered trouble in my immediate family and felt desperate about it.  More doubts came to my mind, but this time it was about the approach I have been taking in the last year.  I started wondering if this “God business” was actually a bad thing to walk away from.  The concept of hell, salvation through faith alone,  the “forgiveness” of sins, the Holy Trinity, and the divinity of Jesus Christ were a few of many questionable doctrines that simply became too mystical for me to accept and believe any longer.  But right now I am looking past these doubts and allowing God to work on me.  I still have my doubts, but my recent experience in life has been like a a bucket of ice water spilled on my face.  I needed to wake up.

 

So I started to pray, like I have not done in months.  I humbled myself against my rational and intellectual nature, and started to talk to this “invisible” and “distant” God out of desperation.  I often criticized the act of prayer as a manipulative way of getting God to do what I want, which you can read more in the post “Why pray?.”  But I felt like a vegetarian craving for a hamburger in the middle of a desert.

I also started posting and sharing messages in a Christian forum and started reading an inspirational Christian book as well.  As I read some of the pages, my rational mind kept saying to myself:  “be careful…. don’t fall into the religious trap…. you know it is just superstitious….. this is only religious fanaticism… fairy tales.”

But my personal family ordeal was pulling me away from my rational mind, and towards the “unknown” of spiritual life.  I craved for answers.  So I decided to give God another chance.  I blindly got to my knees and plead for my heart to be transformed.  Instead of blaming others and expecting circumstances to change, I accepted the challenge of opening my heart again and let “God” do whatever needed to be done.  I was basically “testing God.”  I remember praying : “you want my attention?…. you got it!”  I cried like a baby.   I remember saying, “I don’t have a lot of faith… but I am here pleading, just in case you are listening!”

I then came across this other wonderful blog titled “Isaiah 53:5 Project” where it has a recent post called “God is calling, Pick up the Phone” The author described a time when he decided to open up to the possibility of God’s call:

” Since I couldn’t escape thinking about the possibility of God or continue to ignore His constant calls I finally, and reluctantly, “answered the phone”.

 

This post helped me realize that God may be “calling me.”   I have asked God if He is listening.  This post asked me if I have been listening to God.  The answer is probably NO.  Like the prodigal son, who walked away from his father, but returned after he has been starving to death.    I still have my doubts.  But that is ok.  I don’t believe God expects me to know everything for certain in order to grow spiritually.   Christianity may still not have all the answers, but I am willing to learn.  I am willing to listen.

I am tuned in.


Is God Listening?

Is God listening? I have been struggling with a difficult issue that has brought me to tears. I have not been religious for more than two years. Meaning, I have ceased to pray, go to a religious institution, or read the Bible. I don’t even believe God interferes with everyday life. However, I am currently experiencing a high level of anxiety and sadness, to the point of crying out of desperation to God. I am actually doing what I have criticized and labeled as “irrational” and “self-centered.” Praying to God only when in need of something or out of despair.

Could it be that, because of my lack of faith and religious abandonment, that God is “teaching me” a lesson? Wouldn’t this mean that God is not merciful? Or could it be that God is helping me be closer to Him through this tribulation? Could there be another way to get closer to God instead of through suffering? Is this what finding the true God is about? I hope someone can give me some insight, since I am struggling with the idea of begging to God just because I wish circumstances to be different.  I don’t want to feel that I am trying to “manipulate” God into allowing things to be my way.   I have also prayed that, if it is not His will, to help me accept whatever happens.  I have been writing in forums and sharing with other bloggers as well, in hopes to find some answers.

I just want to be fair and not pray out of convenience.  But I fear that I may be talking to empty space.  Don’t know for sure.   I will try to keep an open mind and see if this difficult experience helps me to grow spiritually…. or not.

And if you want and believe so…. please pray for me as well.  Thanks.


What kind of Atheist or Believer are you?

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/15/the-six-types-of-atheists/

The above link has been a popular blog post that CNN published recently regarding a new study that identified different atheists.  It invites some of us to try to identify with a particular type of atheism.

It looks to me like the beginning of the development of various “non-religious” denominations.

In the “religious”  or Christian world, there are those who identify themselves as Catholic, Pentecostal, or Episcopal.  There are also those who prefer to be called Baptists, Lutherans, or Methodists.  There is also the Church of God, The Church of Christ, the Assemblies of God, and the Church of the Nazarene.  Furthermore, there are others who attend the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Unitarian Church, the Orthodox Church, and the Scientology Church.

There are people who are labeled as conservatives, moderates,  liberals, creationists, evangelicals, and missionaries.  There are those who believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, and those who believe in the symbolism of the scriptures.  There are those who believe in the story of creation, and those who believe in evolution.  There are those who believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Sacraments, Baptism in water, praying to saints, and the intervention of angels and saints. There are those who believe in the Rapture, others in the second coming of Christ, and others believe in the Resurrection of our bodies in the latter days.

Not to mention Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jewish, the Baha’i faith, Wicca, and many other organized  religious affiliation.  The list goes on and on of the different kinds of churches and belief systems.

How much more division and labeling are we going to embrace?  How much contrasting are we going to endure?

According to CNN’s article, there are six main types of Atheists (is it a coincidence that they came up with the number 6?).  There is the “Intellectual”, the Activist,  the Seeker/Agnostic (which does not sound like an Atheist since it implies seeking something transcendent with an open mind), the Anti-theist, the Non-theist, and the Ritual Atheist.  What will they come up with next?

This is why I don’t necessarily like the idea of using labels to identify myself.  It tends to separate us from each other and from ourselves.   I have written that I call myself a Reflective Christian.  This does not imply any particular religious denomination or philosophy.  I am just a person who seeks and strongly believes in serving the poor, like Jesus, Ghandi, and Buddha taught.  Period.  If this description is not enough to fit the popular method of labeling and categorizing, too bad.

Do you identify yourself with a particular religious group?  Or are you more like one of the six kinds of Atheists?  Are you an “ABC” (Atheist, Believer, or Confused)?

I would like to hear about your opinion on this matter.

Thanks for reading.


Religiously Correct

I sometimes have been tempted to be “religiously correct”.  By this I mean that, in spite of my continuous spiritual growth and evolving journey in life, I sometimes tend to regress and think in a traditional, exclusive, and religious way like I used to.  Of course, there are a lot teachings and customs in the Christian faith I grew up with that are still a huge part in my spiritual life, not because others have taught me to believe them, but because I genuinely believe them to be true.  But I wanted to share a list of old beliefs I learned from childhood which I accepted without question until recently, which now I consider “religiously correct”:

“I shouldn’t be angry  at life… or at God.”   I have always been taught that we should not  be angry at life or God because He knows everything and loves us, and that life is a gift.  This is true, but it does not dismiss the fact that this life can sometimes be painful. Besides, acknowledging the pain is also healthy.  God also at times seem unfair and distant.  I tend to feel fearful in expressing my true feelings to God.  But if I don’t, I would not have a close relationship with Him.  Thankfully I have learned in my spiritual journey that we have the right to be angry at God.  The Bible has stories such as  Israel, Job, and David whom disputed and questioned God on the injustice they experienced.  Even Jesus once said “Why have you forsaken me?”, citing Psalmist, while slowly dying on the cross.  So, yes, being angry at life and God is natural, even healthy, because expressing this honest feeling to the Omnipresent Being is better than having no relationship with  Him at all.

“People who are not Christians are living in sin, and therefore, not ‘saved’.”    This is one of the most disturbing beliefs of the Christian faith.  Jesus said “Do not judge…for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:2)  Who are we to determine who is “saved” or not? Jesus taught that many will claim to know Him but He will say to them “I never knew you…! (Matthew 7:23).  How am I to conclude that people like Gandhi, Dalai Lama, and other inspired people who lived serving others,  are burning eternally in hell unless they agreed with my faith? No, I cannot embrace this exclusiveness anymore.

“Behaviors such as drinking alcohol, smoking, and tattooing are sinful.”  I have witnessed the damaging results of drunkenness and smoking cigarettes in my family. Many close families have been affected by the disease of alcoholism and I recently lost someone to lung cancer caused by heavy smoking.  So it is easy for me to agree with those who automatically link these behaviors to spiritual shortcomings and sin.  However, I have learned that true spiritual growth relies on what my genuine attitude about life is and how I treat others.  I can be completely sober, never touch a cigarette, and have a clear skin, and still practice adultery, gossip, lie, manipulate, be greedy, and discriminate others, which is broadly done by many Christians. Jesus himself said that  what truly defiles man comes from within (Mark 7:15).  So no matter how much junk I put in my body, or how much ink I use to decorate my body, what comes from  my heart is what defines how I truly am.

“If it somehow involves Jesus and his teachings, then it must be good.”  Whenever someone preaches or talks about how God inspired them, I tend to show admiration and trust because it is commonly an expected response. I used to listen to people “of faith” without a filter, simply because they admired and worshiped Jesus.  I thought “Surely Jesus is backing them up for their arduous commitment to Him…!”  Not necessarily.  There are thousands of churches and denominations that claim to be the true church, but are actually based on self-service and worldly ambitions.  Ever wondered why the Christian church is so divided?  John wrote in the book of Revelation about Jesus preaching to various ancient churches that were short from being righteous (Revelations 2-3).  So if people claim to have a message from God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, or any of the so-called “saints”, my suggestion is not to believe them.  Do your own research and follow your guts.

“All we need is prayer.”  Saying that I will pray for those in need and even myself is  usually the first thing that comes to mind.  I tend to tell people in need, “I will keep you in my prayers”  Again, this is a nice thing to say because it is religiously correct.  Well, this is easy for those who are doing the prayer, but not for the ones having the need.  I am not implying that we should have no faith and simply rely on our own strength. But prayer should not be the only thing we do.  I agree that actions speak louder than words.  To me, prayer is not what I have been taught.  Prayer to me is like reflecting, meditating, thanking, and doing all the things that helps us to be more connected with our true self and our creator, not simply requesting for things.  So reflecting on life is not sufficient for good things to happen, we should also put into practice what we pray  or reflect on.  The book of James in the Bible beautifully describes how faith and work should go hand in hand (James 2:17).

The following beliefs continue to be a strong part of my spiritual journey, which I do not think are religiously correct, but rather  teachings we should all follow as fellow human beings to maintain peace and genuine love and care regardless of religious background.

Deny yourself and be humble.  This is one of the traditional teachings I still long to accomplish  on a daily basis.   It is the initial step we should take to begin our journey towards spiritual maturity. We should be like children, “born again”, and begin a new life of simplicity, selflessness, and God-centeredness. (Luke 9:23, John 3:3, Matthew 5:3-5)

Love our neighbors as ourselves.  This is a simple teaching to understand, but not to practice, which is probably  why it is seldom done.  Jesus identified himself with those in need, and wanted us to do the same.  Loving ourselves more than others is easy, but loving others the same way as the self is true Salvation. And not only loving those who are easy to love.  Jesus said that if we love only those who love us, what is so special about that?  We should be perfect as God is perfect, not because it sounds good, but because I honestly believe it is the way to spiritual purity.  (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 5:43, 47, Galatians 5:14)

Forgive and don’t hold grudges. Letting go of hurts and resentments will surely free us from any bondage that keeps us from growing spiritually.  I still believe strongly in this. My personal life has taught me how liberating it is to truly forget past hurts and simply live.   (Matthew 18:22)

Fight for righteousness, justice, and peace.    These are strong teachings most people believe in, including myself.  Fighting  for what is right in today’s world should be one of our priorities. There is too much injustice, wars, famine, and suffering for us to cross our arms and simply pray for what we wish for.  No, we should act and fight for what is right.  Jesus taught this and it is our obligation to follow this commandment.  (Deuteronomy 16:20, Matthew 5:6, 9)

Following certain teachings simply because they are popular or because they sound religious does not necessarily make them right.  I had to learn this in my life.  It was not easy breaking away from traditions and customs that people taught me all of my life.  It is not easy being unpopular, discriminated, and singled out because of my decision to be genuine and truthful to myself.  But I rather be honest and continue to grow spiritually, than to continue to be “religiously correct.”


“Am I Dying…?”

This question was asked to me by my uncle who is suffering from lung cancer that has spread to his brain. He has been given days to live.

I did not know what to say. Should I tell him what I have heard? Should I try to change the subject? Should I lie? I froze.

I could have used logic and say “We are all going to die…” Or I could have minimized it and said “Don’t worry… you are fine…” Or perhaps I could have denied it and say “No, you are not .” Others would have probably used religion by talking about God and the “plan of salvation.” Would this be ok? Do I have the authority to talk to a dying person about what to do to go to heaven, when I have my own faults?  My own doubts?

Death is such an awful thing to accept.  It is difficult to finally face the reality that one day a loved one and all of us are going to cease to exist on this earth.

Cancer is a monster.  It is a way for the cells to replicate faster than it can get rid of, ultimately killing the whole body. It is a way for the body to slowly commit suicide.  Scary.  If I had a completely objective mind, the thought of cancer would be simply a medical condition that just happens. But since I have feelings, goals, intentions, wills, and hopes, thinking about this makes be very uncomfortable.

Is it possible to accept death without any fear?  I have learned that we all have a fear of death from birth.  As babies we cry when hungry, cold, bored, or in pain.  All of these experiences, if not taken care of, will ultimately lead to death.  When we are adolescents, we crave for acceptance and identity, something that will lead to feeling abandonment, isolation , and ultimately death if not addressed.  As adults, we want to marry, earn a career, have possessions, and have a purpose in life,  which will bring us to depression and anxiety if not accomplished because it means that we will be closer to having or being nothing, which is related to death.

If we are going to die anyways, why do we fear is so much?  It happens to everybody.  Why do we always try to ignore it and pretend it is not going to happen?   Is it the fear of the unknown?  Should we learn to accept it as we learn to accept failures, discomfort and pain?  Analyzing about why we fear death does not help me to alleviate the fear.

We have the concept of eternity.  We long to live forever.  Does this mean that we can actually live forever?

I don’t have the answers.  I am not sure if anyone does.  All I know is that one day we will all have to confront our end.  I hope that before that happens, I will be able to do what I enjoy the most and gives me purpose in life:  spend time with my children, paint, go to the beach, learn to play the guitar, visit other countries like Italy and Japan, and much more.  Today is the day to do these things.

However,  I also try to remind myself that I don’t want to be here simply to meet my own selfish desires.  I want to also be other people’s blessings.  I want to help others feel loved and important.  I should not only strive for the things I want for myself.  I want to also be part of a whole.

I recently read the quote “To be happy is not to have what I want.. but to want what I have”.  Great words of inspiration!   Being content with what I already have should be my life’s purpose.  That is why I also long for simplicity.

Maybe being content with my current life will help me to accept death more.  Maybe being happy with what I have accomplished and how I have blessed others should give me peace of mind.  Perhaps wanting to continue to help others in need should be my ongoing journey until it all ends.  Maybe death is like graduation.  A stage in life where I look back and acknowledge my losses and triumphs, always thinking that it is all about helping my fellow human beings.

What did I actually say to my uncle you may be asking?  I looked at those big green eyes staring at me…. thought for a few seconds and said “I don’t know for sure… all I know is that you are still here with us today…you have accomplished a lot in your life…  and we are happy to have you right now…. because we love you.”


As it is

  Can I possibly perceive my surrounding as it is?

What surrounds me, what I perceive in the environment, is usually interpreted in a certain way, based on my previous experience.  Therefore, I associate everything I see, hear, smell, touch, and taste in a particular, subjective way.  Can I perceive without associating, without judging, without the mental filter I usually use and perceive them “as it is”?

How about the self?  The thoughts that I have in my mind create the self, or do them? In my experience, I have learned that the self is based on subjective perceptions of the world, like the surrounding.  Other perceive me or my self as a different entity, based on their experience. I have seen my self as an individual of a particular race, gender, age, ethnicity, personality, with distinct interests, talents, biases, attitudes, etc.   And I have started to wonder, how accurate is all of this?  If I really think about it, it is all in my mind.  I have chosen to create it based on what I have learned in my 30 plus years on this earth.  I have fabricated the universe inside my mind. But…. what is really out there?

Is there an objective self?  An objective surrounding?  If I somehow accomplish to perceive the surrounding and the self as they really are, will I cease to be human?  Or will I become a new self, or the “real self”?  Some would call this “enlightenment” or “salvation”.  Saved from what?  Perhaps from the illusion I have created in my mind.

Is it possible to deny the self? Jesus taught we could and should in order to “follow Him”.  Buddha also taught that the self is an illusion. Hinduism also assumes that the world we perceive is an illusion.

Are we truly individuals? Are we somehow connected to each other but don’t know it yet?  Maybe to be united with God, Nirvana, heaven, or whatever you want to call it, is to experience the self and the surrounding “as it is”.  Without bias. Without interpretation.  Without association.  Just as it is.

Is this possible?


It’s not all good

Sadly, it is not all good.

Speaking with my wife today, it was a harsh reminder of the reason for my existence.

She has always felt she is here to help orphans.

Since she was a preteen she felt it in her heart.

Similarly I have felt that the reason for my existence is to serve the needy.

Should I perceive our individual callings as a sign from above?

Strangely we both feel we have wasted most of our lives with selfish agendas.

Simultaneously we have seen how much suffering continue  in this world.

Sickness, hunger, injustices, poverty, natural disasters…the list goes on.

Since when did we humans forget that we are all the same?

Strangely  I hear some people say “it’s all good” when it is not true.

Selfish lifestyles keep us from seeing the truth.

Sincerity and humility is what we need to practice.

Spirituality and not religion is exactly what we should endorse.

Sitting down with my wife and discuss about our calling is my next plan

So that we can finally start living the Kingdom of Heaven.

Sensitivity to the suffering is my urgent message to my readers today

Simplify our lives and Serve the needy

Surrender to the realization that it is not all good.