WHY DO WE BELIEVE IN GOD
Our greatest fear, is not the fear of being enough, but rather, not being anything at all. With a mind that has learned to remember it’s past, exist in it’s present, and imagine it’s future, we are in a sense, disabled from being able to conceive of nothingness. Of doing nothing, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, needing nothing, being nothing. We are so filled up with sense experience that our mind can only reconcile it’s death by believing it cannot actually die.
We deduce that we are, so we must continue to be. And if we must be, we must be because of something. That something we call god. We are so invested in god, that we have suspended reason, logic, science, and common sense, all in order to preserve god, and the religious institutions through which god persists.
Why would a creature with such an unparalleled level of potentiality and curiosity need a god anyway? The answer is simply that we have so much possibility, and awareness of that possibility, that we seek an anchor point as not to get lost. The mind has infinite space to roam, and without a fence it simply doesn't feel safe. The mind prefers boundaries, rules, and structure to provide a sense of knowing to the unknown. We are in a sense, prisoners of our own possibility. The fact that we are god, is our greatest fear, as it leaves us like an orphan, at the doorstep of our own authority. We must own our actions. We must correct our selves. We must establish our own values and ethics. We must learn to resolve conflict without violence.
We must stop fighting wars waged for ideological righteousness, or for matters of principle, which leave no room for a winner. After all wisdom when settling conflict between people who are neither bad or good, is a matter of compromise. A compromise reached through logic, reason, empathy, and compassion. All things present with, or without god.
OUR INNER APE - THE ORIGIN OF GOD
As a young mystic seeker I once believed that because religion and god were universally shared among cultures, that fact, in and of itself, qualified religion and god as factual. After all, why would all world cultures have mystic or religious tradition, and from what inborn shared part of ourselves would the need for a god to arise? And then I received my answer through the iconic primatologist, Frans De Wall. He saw first hand how very little we have emotionally developed from our ape cousins, in the expanse of 7 million years. Though we share most of the same genetic coding as our cousins the apes, humans take the same basic yearnings and exaggerate them to grossly destructive proportions. Why? Because we can. Our minds are capable of infinite mischief, and a unyielding curiosity of sensory pleasure and pain. Couple that with our insatiable desire for self preservation, you have the most dangerous animal on the planet.
One might argue that we need religion for its ethics and moral teachings. Yet religion fails to demonstrate that it is an intrinsic part of human moral or ethical development. De Wall, observed that like apes, rats, dogs and all other animals, we are naturally sympathetic, empathetic, reciprocal, and willing to follow social rules. All qualities that god and religion teach as if they are exclusive unto themselves. Simply stated, religion has codified our inborn animal instinctive morals, and professed them as qualities developed from religion and deity worship. When in fact these qualities are present in all animals, not institutions and dogma.
When I learned I was not the creation of a conscious creative deity, my first feeling was raw, vulnerable, and fearful. I felt guilty rather then relieved. I was upset when I observed that I was not, by my nature, religious at all. But rather, deeply fearful of loosing two things; cultural identity, and eternal certainty. Shame and social exile are synonymous with religious betrayal, and tap into our great fear of being alone. And what is more comforting than knowing forgiveness, peace, and eternal bliss lie ahead. With a brain hardwired for safety and certainty, religion and god are the perfect stories to ease our minds to rest.
YOGA AND GOD
Many people make the transition from traditional religiosity to yoga for the simple reason that traditional yoga is religious at it’s roots. It was birthed during a time when man was full of superstition, science was bound by it’s duties to religion, women were still regarded as incapable of doing the tough work of self study, and cultures looked to control their fait through deity worship. The distinction here is that the modern yoga student doesn't make a distinction at all between the society that explored this ancient ritual, and the exploration itself. We must after all make a distinction between those who explored unknown lands, and the lands themselves. Religious men looking within in themselves for deeper understanding does not make the looking a religious act.
Yoga in fact has nothing to do with religion, but is rather a scientific exploration, seeking nothing other than what shows up. The compassion, love, and mysticism that we associate as god within us, is simply our nature being experienced. Thus, god within us, as we are the god we seek. We can spend decades arguing over what yoga is, it’s origins, and its future. We can fight for it’s rituals and traditions in order to preserve things that only serve to connect us to the past. Yet the principle enduring effect of Yoga is liberation from the illusion that I am separate from anything, and that the stories I believe are real. God included.
When the education of self fails, people turn to religion. When religion fails we turn to law. Through one we turn humans into criminals, and the other into sinners. The evidence that both are archaic, and ineffectual, is in the fact that neither one seeks to reform, but rather punish. Religion and law, give us a sense of safety and knowing. They offer inflexible morals, ethics, and rituals that control through the guise of liberation. Religion is the champion of fear and reason, but the enemy of logic. In fact it renounces logic as counter productive to the process of faith, and devotion. Religion asks of us a devotion to a deity, a duty to ritual, and a blind trust in the accuracy and experience of someone else’s story. Self inquiry requires no such convention. You sit. You see. You learn.
I theorize, if it were proven that there was no after life whatsoever, and all humans accepted this, there would be no use for god or religion at all. What purpose would either serve if they were not there to provide some sense of future knowing, emotional comfort, or moral imperative? People would simply understand and accept that they have a very limited time in which to live. The promise of reward, and or punishment, would no longer be a useful tool for social control. In fact, people might even live with more urgency towards love and kindness, knowing that there are no second chances.
Modern yoga builds community, connectivity, and cooperation through the search for the curious relationship between the material external reality, and the invisible inner existence. Between the objective world, and the subjective awareness. There is an important point here for modern yoga practitioners who forget the larger objective; to practice non-judgement, non-attachment, non-knowing. We love yoga’s rituals, rich religious history, and it’s liberators, yet we often fail to be liberated from them.
Photo by: Pete Longworth ( www.petelongworth.com )