When God Is Needed!

One of the things I most like about writing this inspirational thing is how it forces me to live life more attentively.  I do not know of any major spiritual tradition which does not say one needs to live attentively.  The other amazing thing about myself is how easy it is not to live attentively.  This is probably true for many of you, too.

It is easy for me to fake out myself.  If I am not thinking about it, I assume that I would be living attentively.  If I am honest, I have a pretty high view of myself.  By that, I don’t mean I am a walking, prideful, arrogant guy.  I don’t think that.  By having a high view of myself, I mean that I see myself as pretty capable---pretty “with it” when it comes to functioning in the world. 

At one level this is probably true.  I am educated at a level higher than the average American.  By now I also have lived long enough to have accumulated significant experience.  And the list goes on.  What I have achieved has been a mixture of some ability and, surely, some luck.  That is not different than most people.

But having a high view of myself means I can fool myself.  Instead of living attentively, I might be prone to live more selfishly.  Instead of being open to what is, I might see things from a warped, self-centered perspective.  That does not mean I see things wrongly, but I do often warp the way I see things.  And this is contrary to a truly spiritual way of going about life.

So that’s why I like this discipline of writing.  It forces me to live attentively---or, at least, to try to live attentively.  That includes a fairly broad range of things.  I pay attention to people, to situations, and many other things.  Another key place for me to pay attention is reading pretty widely.  When I do this, I find interesting and, sometimes, challenging ways of understanding myself and my world.  And yesterday I hit one of those interesting things.

I was reading an interesting online article, entitled, ““What Atheists can Learn from Religion.”  It is written by a British atheist, Alain de Botton.  But he is an open-minded atheist, which attracted me to what he had to say.  I wanted to be open to how he would challenge me.  Basically de Botton says he does not believe God exists, but understands those situations when God is needed.

For example, de Botton says that  “God may be dead, but the urgent issues which impelled us to make him up still stir and demand resolutions…do not go away…”  Clearly, I am not in the same boat as de Botton.  I do believe God exists, although that does not solve the urgent issues any more than de Botton’s atheistic starting point.  Oddly enough, the point is not whether God exists.  The point is urgent issues exist and those issues demand resolutions.

So what would these issues be?  De Botton does not cite them, but it seems easy enough to identify a few of them.  They are the “big” issues of our world.  One issue is the whole global warming phenomenon.  Of course, I know there are many people who do not believe this is an issue.  And lucky for me and sad for the world, I probably won’t live long enough for this to affect me.  But with luck, my little granddaughter can live until the next century---yes, until 2100!  Will she be so lucky?

De Botton and I both would agree that God will not step in and magically change the global warming situation.  De Botton does not think there is a God and I don’t think that God works that way.  Global warming is a human problem that we have the God-given ability to resolve.  But will we?

This brings me to another quotation of de Botton.  I like him because he can admire the strength of religion.  He says, “Religions merit our attention for their sheer conceptual ambition; for changing the world in a way that few secular institutions ever have. They have managed to combine theories about ethics and metaphysics with practical involvement in education, fashion, politics, travel, hostelry, initiation ceremonies, publishing, art and architecture -- a range of interests which puts to shame the scope of the achievements of even the greatest and most influential secular movements and individuals in history.”

I love the way de Botton affirms the “sheer conceptual ambition” he sees in religion.  That gives us God-believers a mighty challenge.  We need (along with God’s help) to continue changing the world.  How about working for world peace?  How about raising the standard of living of the poor and derelict in our neighborhoods and in the far reaches of our world? 

I am bold enough to believe that we can pray the Lord’s Prayer and actually mean it!  Let’s boldly pray that “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done.”  In our religious boldness let us begin to pray that prayer and to do that work of Kingdom-building.  This is truly when God is needed.  And I believe I and you are needed, too.  Let’s go!

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