A logic God and the dogmas

god-explainingWe all know one of the most important characteristics of our being Unitarian Universalists is the refusal of every dogma. Have you ever asked to yourself the reason for this position?

I suppose the first question we have to ask to ourselves is “what is a dogma?” In definitional terms a dogma is “a truth which can’t be explained with the reasoning but which must be believed only by faith”.

What’s wrong with this? Actually many things.

The first and most important thing which is clearly unacceptable derives from the definition itself. If something can’t be explained by reasoning, it consequently falls into the category of the unreasonable things. So, the question immediately coming to my mind is: given that the capability to reason is one of the most important and distinguishing gifts we received from God, does it make sense that this same God giving us the “Logos” could show Himself to the human beings in a way so openly denying His gift?

Moreover, if these dogmas have no explication and don’t fall into the kingdom of logic, who can decide about the acceptability of their assumptions? Even more radically, who can enunciate them in the moment they refuse any self-evidence?

The common answer to this question is, generally speaking, that they come from an “inspiration” by God, which immediately turns the question into another: “what is an inspiration by God?” Once again starting from definitions, an inspiration can be considered (or, better, it is considered) a sudden revelation about a truth given by God to a single person or to a group of people.

Now, if we try to analyze this last definition, it is impossible not to see that it ends up clashing with some basic common beliefs of the Christian faith. Aren’t we all made after the “image of the Father”? Aren’t we all His sons in the same way? Why, therefore, should the Father choose only some few “elected” people to reveal His will and to disclose His mysteries? And, if God wants the salvation of His sons, the salvation of all of His beloved creatures indistinctively, why should He choose such an indirect way to reveal His ways? Why should He privilege some of His sons in respect to all the others? Ok, I know the immediate answer to this last objection: this is also the way He used to let us know His will through Jesus. Even forgetting about the fact that the strongest supporters of the dogmas are the ones also claiming about an ontological superiority of Jesus (or, more exactly even his divine being), a superiority with no comparisons with any other human being before and after him (a thing, this last, by itself denying the possibility of an equal role of “bridge between God and men” for anyone else), two more things must be said.

1)      All along his preaching Jesus never affirmed anything going against the logic and the rationality: his preaching, in its continuous underlining of the need for a pre-eminence of love, was, in many occasions, opposed to the morality of his times but never irrational (meaning with this something going against what we would now define “Aristotelian logic”). The same, for sure, can’t be said about many of the dogmas and of the rules which were later stated by his followers: let’s think, just to give a couple of examples, to the Trinitarian affirmation that “1=3”, clearly against the principle of identity , or, to come to more recent statements, that, as mentioned, all men are equally beloved sons of the Father but one of them is “infallible” speaking as a leader for all, which clearly goes against the principle of non-contradiction.

2)      Having a look to Church history, what clearly emerges is that in the definition of dogmas there was nothing divine and, on the contrary, they were just human products aimed to impose some hierarchic figure as “heavenly messenger” just to strengthen his power, in a political picture which, once again, is by far removed from the message of universal brotherhood of Jesus. This point is really central: in any occasion dogmas have always been tools of power in the hands of someone using them to subjugate the others. All councils have, historically, been examples of the attempt to impose an idea as “sacred” denying the validity of another idea and to destroy the claim of an equal “sacralized power” by someone else.

In this context, what is the most incredible thing to me is that these dogmas, as well as many “moral prescriptions”, though being, as any other human product, localized in time and space, have become, in the moment of their rise to a special role”, crystsllized, a-temporal and eternal, forming the basis on which to build new theories and to give new prescriptions endorsed by the previous statements. This system of self referentiality is just another example of a totally a-logic way to proceed: I state a datum basing its validity on another non-verified datum, in a process aimed only to form a corpus of suppositions given as absolute consequential truths.

The result is just to transform a message rooted on a bond of love linking God and human beings reciprocally and human beings to human beings in a cage of rules, prohibitions and ancient fantasies, ending up with a distortion of the original core of the teaching.

This doesn’t mean that humans can understand everything of God: the unbalance in the relation between Infinite divine Being and finite capability of vision of the human genre surely doesn’t allow it. This simply means all the black holes we will necessarily always have in our understanding of God can’t be filled with absurdities, fictionally derived rules and human created assumptions. Mainly, this means that we must never abdicate to the use of reason and we must never absolutise a human attempt to make us believe there are dark shadows in the divine logic governing this world.

Wherever we turn our sight on nature we can see there is a perfect consequentiality, a sharp mechanism governing the creation: everything makes sense, everything has a sense and a consequentiality, everything tells us about a logic God. Surely you can say God is not subjected to His own laws (it is what many people claimed for centuries) but the question stands: why should a God who created a world according to a perfect shape based on some laws deny the same laws only in the moment in which He refers to Himself, in the moment in which He reveals His will to the highest peak of His creation?

In our experience God is logic, human beings not always are: where could illogic statements come from? It’s up to us to decide.

A true Thanksgiving

gratitude-2In a few days, in Italy, where we follow the Hungarian liturgical calendar, we are going to have one of the most joyful celebrations of the Unitarian tradition: the Thanksgiving day.
What is this celebration? Just the time when we want to say our thanks to the Entity which we consider superior to us, however we call it: God , Spirit of life , the Transcendent …the names don’t matter because each of us knows exactly who he is going to speak to.
Why do we say thank you? Maybe we think that there is little to be thankful for at this time when everyone, some more, some less, are touched, sometimes even in depth, by an economic crisis that seems to limit our horizons and our hopes. Or we think that everything that we have achieved is the result of our work, of our efforts, and that our successes have nothing to do with anything transcendent.
Yet, I just wish we stopped for a moment to reflect on a datum, to answer to a question: which is the essential element that unites all times of joy we have ever lived, we live and we will live in our lives? Which is the necessary condition for any feeling of happiness that has at any time touched, touches or we wish will touch our hearts?
You have five seconds to find an answer within your heart:
… four
… three
… two
… one …
Okay, found it? I am sure you have, because the answer is so easy to be contained in the question itself : the necessary condition to know at least a moment of happiness in life is life itself and it is for life, for our lives and for the lives of those we love that in a few days we will give thanks to God.
Yes, I know , most likely some of us are thinking, or at some time in their lives have thought, it would have been better never to be born, that life is just a great suffering without meaning, a continuous accumulation of problems and problems .
It’s true: sometimes life is just like that! Life can be complicated and not, as some say, especially now : it always has been, in every age, at every latitude. The complication is a constitutive part of life so that when, for whatever reason, it flows too placid, like a slow lazy river, in the end we like it less, it appears to us as dull, monotonous, even harassing and we end up trying to complicate it  on our own, at least a little bit, perhaps even inadvertently.
Why? Because the force of life, its true beauty, stands in every small achievement, internal or external as it could be, in every step we take, no matter how difficult it may be, in every obstacle that we overcome with the consciousness of having done our best.
But life, which is also this, is not only this. Let’s forget about sad medieval or counterreformation philosophers and theologians speaking of life as a kind of battlefield, a difficult test to earn heaven or hell. What a sad vision these people had to have about God to make Him just a kind of judge or referee, intent to measure with a precision balance how much faith we have shown, if we have always been obedient to laws , if we have suffered and cried for the wounds of Jesus, if we were always strong in faith in the face of adversity!
Let’s forget that God of pain, that little sadist God who already knows how things will end but, the same, tests us by placing before us a stake after another. That God is not our God, that God is the product of sad,darkened, depressed minds, locked in prisons they have built with their hands, both physical prisons, made of cold and wet cells of monasteries, and mental prisons, made of dogmas and inviolable formulas. That God is the result of a human thought which closes its borders, which limits its gaze.
Our God, the Deity we believe in is different : our God is a loving God, who created us with love and for love. He is a God who Himself is love and, as such, He is a God of the possible, a God of hope .
Did you happen to be in love? Not of God, I mean, but of a man or a woman ? What is the first gift that springs inside of us when we are in love? Beyond any connotation or any momentary specification, the first gift of love is hope and, with hope, joy.
Another “five seconds question”: can you remember a time, during last year, in which at least for a moment you felt full of joy and hope? Try to visualize it and to remember what you felt. But be careful: you must not think about great joys or incredible moments. I do not think many of you this year have won the Lotto or have had a promotion that has doubled your salary or have had a turning point in their lives: these are rare things, drops of impossible that sometimes fall on this or that life but they are not, after all, part of the lives of many. I am referring to a very simple moment: a sudden revelation, a kiss, a hug, a handshake that made us feel human warmth, even just a glance that we did not expect.
Here we are, let’s try to visualize that moment. Five
… four
… three
… two
… one …
Done? How did you feel ? Well, I guess. I do not see you, but I’m sure that at least some of you are smiling: to remember a moment of joy and hope is, somehow, like living it again .
Well, now, after having thought about that moment of joy, try to think that it wouldn’t have existed if you hadn’t been alive, if at a certain moment of the long flow of time God had not decided, in an unexpected and free act of love, to create us, to give us life .
Don’t you feel, now, a little bit more in love with life? I hope so . And being in love with life means being in love for the sake of the One who gave it to us . Don’t we want to say “thank you” to Him? At least a small “thank you”, even only for that instant?
Of course we are all polite people and perhaps you have already thanked, at least in your heart if not verbally, the person who gave us that moment of joy, warmth and hope.
But there is the necessary condition of which we have spoken: if you have felt it was right to say “thank you” for a moment, isn’t it right that we say “thanks” to the One who made this moment possible and, hopefully, will make many other moments like that possible?
So, let’s say thank you to life, to the force of life, to the possibility of life and, in doing so, let’s say “thank you” to the One who gave us this force, this possibility. Let’s thank God and say it together, because together, holding hands at least virtually, our thanks from a whisper becomes a roar inside of us, it becomes a new force of life and hope.
This would already be enough. I do not believe in a God that spends his infinite time listening to praise and aggrandizement as a king sitting on his throne: I believe, though, in a God who loves and, as such, loves to be loved and there is no form of greater love than to feel gratitude for the love that you receive.
Yes, that would be enough. But something more is perhaps possible.
You’ll certainly happened to go to dinner with friends or relatives. What do you do when you go? Well, we said we are polite people, and as such, most likely we bring flowers, chocolates, a bottle of wine with us: in short, anything that could tangibly show our gratitude and our love. It is not necessary, we all know: the true friends know that love does not depend on a small gift, which is just something more, a way that, when there is a bond of love, just goes to show deeper feelings. It is not necessary, but we do it and we feel good doing it.
Well, what I’d like to ask to everybody, if you can, if you feel it is right, is to do the same to God: bring a flower to life, bring a flower to God, resolve to do it and do it really.
How? Please do not bring flowers in front of a statue or picture: a statue or a painting can’t care less about our flowers, rotting there until someone throws them away.
It is not in a statue or an icon that we have the image of God, but in our brethren, in those who share with us the inexhaustible gift of life. It is to them that we can bring our symbolic flower, trying to make their lives at least a little less complicated: let’s give an helping hand, let’s give a little help to those in need, let’s give a smile to those who receive too few smiles, let’s pay attention to those around us, let’s donate a bit of human warmth. For each person we will be agents of joy and hope for, we will say thank you to our God for our lives, we will be partakers of that great stream of love and hope that is life itself, the same life for which we are giving thanks to God.

Again on theology, denominations and barriers

preach02Just a few hours ago a teenager contacted me through FB. He wanted to chat “about religion” and, obviously, he didn’t even know the meaning of the term “Unitarian”. He told me he is a member of the Church of Christ (well, not so surprisingly in the end, as the majority of Catholics wouldn’t have tried to contact a Protestant pastor and an increasing number of people leaving Catholicism are “crossing the line” just to pass from the dogmas of the Vatican to the dogmas of the most literalist denominations, finding good harvest places mainly in the South of Italy). So he told me he couldn’t find the term “Unitarian” in the Gospel and asked me if I knew the name of the “real Church” created by Jesus (of course in his mind the correct answer had to be “Church of Christ”, perhaps with a little of tautology) . When I answered that Jesus never gave a name to his Church (admitting he ever created one) and tried to explain that my opinion was the Jesus was trying to speak to everybody, the guy got quite upset but it was when he realized I don’t believe in the “deity” of Jesus (actually I had immediately told him I was non-trinitarian, but possibly he must have thought this term meant I had some skin desease or something similar) that his mind got blown away and he started accusing me to “cheat” people, to be an  apostate, an ignorant, something like the evil son of Satan and so on…
No problem! It was not the first time and it won’t be the last, I suppose, and surely I was not in the mood of quarreling with an exalted and brain-washed kid . But something he said made me think a lot. He wrote (I try to translate from Italian) “to deny the deity of Jesus is against the holy doctrine so, between me and you, someone is surely wrong, and as I know that Jesus Christ is on my side, it must be you, so I don’t want to talk to you anymore”. “Holy doctrine”, “Jesus Christ is on my side”… Well, the whole thing has its logic: quite clearly if you follow the “holy doctrine”, Jesus Christ must forcedly be on your side… What shocked me was the lack of any doubt about the “holy doctrine” he had been taught and he was reporting with a whole anthology of ready-made statements: not a single doubt in his mind, that was the truth and that’s it. There was no meaning for him in listening to my ideas as they were obviously wrong being different from his ones or, better, from the ones of his Church. So I started thinking about the power of dogmas, sticking to the mind of people like an imprinting, denying them the possibility to exert any form of free thought.
Oh, these fanatic fundamentalists…
But well, isn’t any theology, in a way or another, a form of dogma? Doesn’t any theology say, in a way or another, “guy, this is what you ought to think if you want to have Jesus on your side”? Doesn’t any denomination, in a way or another, tell you: “man, if you want to be in, this is what you must believe, otherwise you are out”?
Sure, some elements could be more rational than others, but the core doesn’t change: a dynamic of IN or OUT which, in the end, erodes room to the result of the free, absolutly personal contact with the Divine, with the Further, with the Spiritual, however we want to call it and destroys the bounds of love and brothehood among people.
Probably it’s an easier way to live a religious life: someone gives an intepretation, very probably even a honest one in his mind (certainly with no fear to be refuted by facts as none ever met God in person, was there to witness the correctness of reports written thousands of years ago or to say that things, passing from hundreds of amanuenses, were not written the way we read them) and you just have to believe this is the “holy doctrine”…
Yes, probably it’s easier… but so sad to me… so capable to build walls among people: IN/OUT, nothing in between, no dialogue, no personal growth, no personal engagement in an inner vision… In exchange you get a name, a label, an “identity” in a flooding World but… shouldn’t “human being” be enough as an identity? Shouldn’t “searcher of the Spirit” be enough as a label? Shouldn’t all the rest be your own personal experience to share in your community, if you want, in a bridge-building dialogue?
Well, the guy told me he was going to pray for my spiritual healing… Good! At least I earned two things from my late afternoon chat: something to think about and someone praying for me, which is never bad…