March 16, 2015
by Dr. R. Scott
1. Listen. Don’t talk. Listening to the thoughts and feelings of others is a sacred activity and says more about God than most sermons I’ve heard (and preached).
2. Respect the other person because the other person might be right. There. I said it. They might be right. Belittling someone because of their lack of faith is more damaging than not believing in God in the first place.
3. Discover what kind of God is not being believed in. (I think broke three grammatical rules in one sentence.) I find that when people tell me the kind of God they don’t believe in, I don’t believe in that God either. Not to get too nerdy about it, but you can reject theism and still believe in God.
4. De-literalize the idea of God. Most people are rejecting, not so much the concept of God, but a small caricature of the divine. (The Man Upstairs.) God is only a word we use to describe the great source / universe / meaning that we experience in life.
5. De-classify God. Consider putting to rest old classical ideas of God — All-Powerful / All-Present / All-Knowing. Begin to think of God as energy / presence / expansive oneness. (I could give fifty other options here.)
6. Rather than trying to prove the existence of God, simply be honest about your own experience. Your experience of being accepted by something greater than yourself. Your experience of mystery and joy and meaning. Your peak experiences of unity, cohesion and love. Personal experience is everything.
7. Find common ground. I might listen to a beautiful piece of music and it brings me closer to God. Another person might listen to the same music and it brings her closer to genuine human emotion. In the end we still love the same music and the music has touched our human depths. Why not focus on the result of the experience and not quibble about the language?
8. Don’t be afraid to be honest with your own doubts. Faith is not the absence of doubt; faith is finding a way to look into the darkness of life and still move forward with the hope that there is something or someone deeply within us and forever beyond us.
9. Not everything associated with religion is good and it’s healthy to acknowledge it. Humility is always a good thing.
10. Understand religion as as journey and not a destination. We can argue all day long if we should stay in New Mexico or Arizona. But the most important thing is to figure out how we got here and where we’re going. Everyone is on a journey.
11. Quoting the Bible at someone does not help. The Bible is great for the temple or church. But quoting it in order to get people to believe in God is about as helpful as trying to put out a fire with a can of gasoline.
12. Religion doesn’t have to have all the answers. It can have some of the answers. But it doesn’t have to have all the answers.
13. Rather than focusing on beliefs and doctrines, think about focusing on notions. Notions are interesting. They point to something. For example, I’m not too concerned that a person believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. However, the notion of the Trinity suggests that at the heart of God (and life) is a communal, dialogical and dynamic reality. I like this notion.
Take a Breath today. Enjoy the conversations of your life. The one within yourself. The one with others. No conversation — sincerely offered and received — is ever a waste of time.