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Building Bridges

I think it’s important to build bridges between people, even when the effort is not always appreciatedt.

I am sharing here some fascinating quotes that are somewhat off-topic for me. They are somewhat religious in nature, but I actually see them as forming a kind of bridge between all legitimate religions, and agnosticism and atheism as well.

The first two are by a 14th century Christian monk, Meister Eckhart, deemed by many to be a profound mystic, much admired by many of today’s theologians:

“God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by a process of elimination.”

I believe he included eliminating our imperfect concept of God as well. In another quote, he said:

“How then should you love [God]? You should love him as he is, a not-God, not-mind. Not-person, not-image…”

The next quotes were written by Simone Weil, a very original Jewish-Christian thinker who worked in England for the Free French Government during World War II. She died at the tender age of 34 from what amounted to be starvation, in sympathy with her compatriots who were limited to wartime rations.

“…it seemed to me certain, and I still think so today, that one can never wrestle enough with God if one does so out of pure regard for truth. Christ likes us to prefer truth to him because, before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go toward truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms…”

“A case of contradictions, both of them true. There is a God. There is no God. Where is the problem? I am quite sure that there is a God in the sense that I am sure my love is no illusion. I am quite sure that there is no God, in the sense that I am sure there is nothing which resembles what I can conceive when I say that word…”

The great scientist/humanist, Albert Einstein, once stated:

“I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists…”

The philosopher Spinoza whom he referenced equated God with Nature.

The Protestant theologian Paul Tillich added that the religious words that are commonly used, because of their inherent limitations, actually hold people back from seeing beyond them to the truth:

"To criticize such a conditioning of the unconditional, even if it leads to atheistic consequences, is more religious, because it is more aware of the unconditional character of the divine, than a theism that bans God into the supernatural realm."

"The first step to atheism is always a theology which drags God down to the level of doubtful things."

What unites all these commentaries, yet remains unsaid, is that despite all the varied beliefs among human beings, what we hold in common is really an existential mystery. We simply do not and cannot know ultimate truth, call it God, Nature, or the original source of lifeless atoms (that actually contrive life, so are they actually lifeless?). If we accept that as true, as André Compte-Sponville tells us, what divides us is not what we know, but what we do not know.

Of course, it is not our belief or unbelief in God that really divides us, but our interpretations—formed by tradition or scripture or scientific theory. (Even then, what really separates us is our tendency to be intolerant—intolerance comes from thinking that we know more than we actually do. We all do it. The danger comes from not being conscious of it.)

But each interpretation point to a shared mystery that remains completely mysterious to everyone. What they all share, atheistic humanism included, is an awakening of the moral impulse to apply reason to conscience in everything we do. Even the bible recognizes the validity of this inner law among unbelievers. (Romans: 2, 14,15 provides a clear statement of that.)

If we could just put intolerance aside and come together at a common moral nexus where all good religions and philosophies meet (despite differences in detail), just think of all the good that could come from it.

That should be what our Enlightenment-based culture is all about—meaning that we should all be working toward the goal of unity and progress.

 

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