The God of this world

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Arrakeen
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The God of this world

Post by Arrakeen » 07 Jul 2020, 19:31

I've been trying to figure out recently whether I believe in God at all anymore, and whether it makes any difference. My opinion seems to be along the lines of "If there is a God, he doesn't seem to do a whole lot". Then I wonder what God's role is supposed to be.

I remember an interesting TED talk I watched several years ago that mentioned how Google is the new God for us modern people. They look at some of the things people search on Google. Basically, when people have questions, ranging from mundane to life-altering, they search Google. The Google search bar is in a way the most trusted entity for answering questions. Think about it. When you're hopelessly lost, you turn to Google Maps. With virtual assistants these days, you can even talk to Google "as a man speaks unto his friend". Google also knows a lot about you from tracking online activity. It knows what you've searched, what places you've been to, what videos you like to watch, what items you need to buy, who your friends are. Google probably knows whether someone drinks coffee or searches for porn, which is more than their bishop probably knows.

While saying Google is God is a little out there (though I think someone actually started a religion based on this concept), it raises some interesting questions about the role of God. In church, I've often heard the idea that God answers our questions and provides guidance. Yet I never seem to get any answers or guidance from God. But I find plenty of answers on Google. And Google is getting more and more useful, while God seems less and less relevant to modern issues.

What are we going to pray for once Google starts telling us where to find our lost keys?

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Heber13
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Re: The God of this world

Post by Heber13 » 07 Jul 2020, 22:09

Screenshot_20200707-230353_Gmail.jpg
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"Google, where are my car keys?"
:thumbup:

I would say...I get more direct answers from Google.
I get more specific direction in life from Google maps.


But Google doesn't make me feel inside. Google isn't mystical, it's too real. It's pretty much a miracle how it works, but having Google doesn't satisfy my searching for life questions.

God is out there. Maybe like the planet Saturn or something. I mean, it's probably real, it is probably out there...but it doesn't really impact my life daily.

Belief in God can, if I use it to move me with faith.

I'm not sure we grow enough from Google, but faith in God (whether there is a God or not) does feed our spirits.

Use it if it helps you. Discard it if it doesn't.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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nibbler
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Re: The God of this world

Post by nibbler » 08 Jul 2020, 04:33

Lucifer identifies himself as the god of this world in the endowment script. Don't know whether the thread title was a subtle reference to this.

If I were to try to abstract a definition for god in the original post I'd say, "something that gives answers" or the even more abstract, "information itself."

Humans don't appear to like ambiguity. We search for answers to questions. We search for predictability to compensate for the negative aspects of sentience. Information helps us make informed decisions and we want to make the right decisions.

Religion has provided authoritative answers to questions in the past. Now the whole of human knowledge can be found on the information super highway.

Maybe what we really worship is being right, and information is a means to that end. If god can't/won't dish the info we start looking to other sources that will.

Heber13's post speaks to how people have more needs than just obtaining answers in an uncertain world. We also have needs like having a sense of belonging, companionship, etc. It's interesting how the information superhighway has had the effect of reducing our in person social contact. I don't know whether the actual need for in person social contact has diminished at all, but these days we can be distant even when physically present with others.

In the context of connecting with others, maybe god was that ice-breaker that helped people bond over commonalities. Like one of the positive aspects of the church that people bring up from time to time, they can go anywhere in the world and connect with a community because the church is there and it's something familiar in a foreign land.
It’s strange. When I couldn’t find the drop and the plague came, you seemed so far away I would not ever be able to find you again. But I know now that you were here all along, and that nothing, not the Black Death nor seven hundred years, nor death nor things to come nor any other creature could ever separate me from your caring and concern. It was with me every minute.
― Connie Willis , Doomsday Book

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nibbler
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Re: The God of this world

Post by nibbler » 08 Jul 2020, 04:40

I could probably abstract god even more and say, "something that meets people's needs." Whatever those needs happen to be.
It’s strange. When I couldn’t find the drop and the plague came, you seemed so far away I would not ever be able to find you again. But I know now that you were here all along, and that nothing, not the Black Death nor seven hundred years, nor death nor things to come nor any other creature could ever separate me from your caring and concern. It was with me every minute.
― Connie Willis , Doomsday Book

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DarkJedi
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Re: The God of this world

Post by DarkJedi » 08 Jul 2020, 04:43

I'm in pretty much the same spot as you Arrakeen. That's why I consider myself Deist more than anything, but I came to that spot from not believing in God. I do believe there is a God, but like you said, I'm not sure what God's role is or whether God does anything. Perhaps God is not really omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent. Perhaps God is like the God in the first season of Miracle Workers (TBS) and isn't even literate.

I actually hadn't thought abut Google before, but Google may be more omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (at least the last two) than God. I dislike that Google knows all of that about me. I don't believe as many do that God is involved in minute details (or any details) of our day-to-day lives, certainly less so than Google. I can't say "God, add lemon juice to my shopping list" but I say that to Alexa and when I'm at the store Alexa tells me to get all the things on my list. I don't believe in the God of the Lost Car Keys, and can't with any amount of certainty say that God has ever helped me with anything. Google and Alexa certainly have (and I bet the capability to find your modern keys is there).

That said, I am not completely devoid of feeling peace that I do believe comes from some form of God, even as the tempest rages.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

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nibbler
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Re: The God of this world

Post by nibbler » 08 Jul 2020, 04:54

I'll toss another wrench in the gears.

People have access to information like never before but from what I've seen we still have issues with what is true and what is fake. I think our biases steer that ship, but it does forward the idea that information itself isn't enough. There's an internal compass that processes information and answers. Take two people, give them the same information, and they can reach opposite conclusions.
It’s strange. When I couldn’t find the drop and the plague came, you seemed so far away I would not ever be able to find you again. But I know now that you were here all along, and that nothing, not the Black Death nor seven hundred years, nor death nor things to come nor any other creature could ever separate me from your caring and concern. It was with me every minute.
― Connie Willis , Doomsday Book

Arrakeen
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Re: The God of this world

Post by Arrakeen » 08 Jul 2020, 14:50

I agree information isn't enough. Humans naturally like to form narratives to make sense of information, and this process is inevitably shaped by biases and experience. Maybe God is just one of those narratives used to piece things together.

I think the church puts too much emphasis on getting answers and not enough on the questions themselves. We like to think the gospel answers all of the important existential questions of life. I remember as a missionary I always made fun of the section "The Book of Mormon answers questions of the soul" in Preach My Gospel where it answers the question "Is there a God?" with a reference to a scripture saying there is a God. As if all you need to convince people of the existence of God is to show them that some book says there is.

But I think part of the value of religion lies in the questions themselves. What is the purpose of life? What is moral? Is death the end? If there is a God or an afterlife, what are the implications? Is human nature good or evil? These are really interesting philosophical questions that don't have clear answers. We can learn a lot about ourselves and others by exploring different possible answers to these questions. But it seems like many people are uncomfortable with the uncertainty and like to pretend that religion has already definitively answered them.

If God is just "something that meets people's needs," what needs are met? I find it interesting to think of God as a projection of our own values and ideals. Merciful people believe in a merciful God, charitable people believe in a charitable God, prejudiced people believe in a prejudiced God, vengeful people believe in a vengeful God. Is God a mirror to show us what we truly believe and value deep down? I remember as a missionary studying all of the "Christlike attributes" in Preach My Gospel. But the thing is, how much do we really know about Jesus' life? We have a couple stories of him doing good things, but that's like someone seeing me help someone on two or three occasions and concluding that I'm some sort of saint. I think we start with the idea that he was perfect, then fill in the blank as to what it means to be perfect, projecting our own values onto him.

As far as inner peace, I'm not sure how to find peace in the idea of God if I don't know what he does. I do however have faith in certain forces of nature. Sometimes I hear people talk about how human activity is destroying nature, but I have faith in evolution and adaptation. While I think we should protect the environment for our own good, I do not think we as mere humans can destroy it. Yes, pandas may go extinct, but cockroaches and pigeons and rats have already adapted to the changes we have created. We may drive ourselves into extinction, but something else will take our place. Life will adapt, life will evolve, life finds a way. I guess for some people nature is God, and this could bring some comfort. No matter what we do, in the grand scheme of things, nature goes on its course.

One idea I keep coming to is that while the belief in God can be helpful and have purpose in our lives, I'm not sure if God's actual existence would even be relevant.

Roy
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Re: The God of this world

Post by Roy » 08 Jul 2020, 15:29

Arrakeen wrote:
08 Jul 2020, 14:50
If God is just "something that meets people's needs," what needs are met?
Maslow's hierarchy of needs describe survival, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self actualization. I believe that religion and tribalism was a huge factor in survival and safety in times past, though not as much in the modern age. It is difficult for me to separate belief in God from belief in the church organization. Mormon religious practice is intensely communal. Belief in the organization and conforming to Mormon norms will help to meet an individual's needs for belonging and esteem. Maslow himself thought that self actualization was to be experienced infrequently as a pinnacle experience. I believe that the sense of purpose and overarching life goals that our doctrine helps to provide is a big part of feeling this sense of fulfillment. I also find it interesting that JS developed the temple ordinances with the anointing, endowment, and 2nd endowment as a sort of ritualized capstone experiences.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Gerald
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Re: The God of this world

Post by Gerald » 09 Jul 2020, 05:55

People have access to information like never before but from what I've seen we still have issues with what is true and what is fake. I think our biases steer that ship, but it does forward the idea that information itself isn't enough. There's an internal compass that processes information and answers. Take two people, give them the same information, and they can reach opposite conclusions.
This is why we should not worship at the altar of Google. Google is nothing more than a way of accessing information but cannot tell us whether the information is truthful, useful or relevant. If I'm going to bother to believe in God, I need something more than an "answer machine." In fact, I think not having all the answers is what makes life interesting (and difficult, too).

I do believe in God (though I'm unsure of God's nature and how God interacts with humankind) but I also like the idea that God is with us and in us and manifested through the love and compassion that we show others. That those bonds that help us connect and care for each could be considered "God." Brene Brown once said (and I paraphrase) that what she calls caring and connection is "God" and that some people call it "going fishing."

In our troubled mortal lives, we all need caring, compassion and connection. I'm pretty sure you won't get that from Google.
So through the dusk of dead, blank-legended And unremunerative years we search to get where life begins, and still we groan because we do not find the living spark where no spark ever was; and thus we die, still searching, like poor old astronomers who totter off to bed and go to sleep, to dream of untriangulated stars.
---Edwin Arlington Robinson---

AmyJ
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Re: The God of this world

Post by AmyJ » 09 Jul 2020, 08:36

Roy wrote:
08 Jul 2020, 15:29
Maslow's hierarchy of needs describe survival, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self actualization. I believe that religion and tribalism was a huge factor in survival and safety in times past, though not as much in the modern age.
From my perspective, the need for tribe formation has not weakened - but what it looks like has changed drastically.
There are 2 main areas I think have had the most change in the function and formation of tribes.
A) Rise of Outsourcing Tribal/familial functions (and the specialization thereof) - instead of insisting that a person in the tribe take care of the needs of another tribal member - society has started (or actively encouraging) outsourcing it - so outsiders are brought into the tribe to take care of members and the tribal boundaries are diminished. A clear example is how we take care of our older members of our families - we hire teams of specialists to help take care of and oversee the care of them. The emotional ties that form from these actions bring people into each other's tribes in more of a bottom-up then a top-down manner. These professionals are also given additional training and more education on best practices to complete the task to care for the person.
I read a book on the rise of the Relief Society up until the 1970's I think written by a respected researcher and historian - and one of the points discussed is how there was a time (I think it is around WW1) that the Relief Society functioned as the community social services arm as well as a women's organization - to the point where the social workers were trained by the R.S. to serve the community and homemaking nights were run to teach new moms some protocols to improve their mothering efforts. Of course this has changed drastically over the years as the function of social workers has evolved and they have received more professional development. This is an example of the identification of a tribal need, the initial way the need was handled, and how the need to care for others has been outsourced.

B) Formation of Tribes Themselves - Historically, tribal formation has been locality based in small areas. About 100 years or so, that drastically changed with the improvement in travel opportunities (hence the huge migrations) and the assumption that your tribe is where you live is now constantly challenged. With the advent of the internet and internet communities, people form tribes all over - this means that people have greater flexibility in whom they include in their personal tribe. I think that part of the challenge being faced by the LDS church is in fact a collision between the top-down formation of tribe (based on geography, tradition, and priesthood authority) and the bottom-up formation of tribe mostly being borne out by the millenials (the push back of "I get to choose my tribe based on my parameters" and "authority is what I make of it"). I think that we also see this conflict arising from the shift to ministering. I think that the ministering efforts were originally set up as a tribal re-inforcing measure to look after others in the tribe - and that it is undergoing stresses as most of the members on the list don't necessarily want visits or to be in the tribe (and some of those reasons to come back are being outsourced to government agencies), and there is an ongoing mis-match between visiting the ministering person and the person(s) being ministered to. I think some of it is designed to prevent the formation of cliches (which is great), and some of it is designed to provide an opportunity to stretch outside of the personal comfort level (which is also great). However, for every "we were not/friends but now we are story" I hear in ministering lessons, I get an equal or more verbal and non-verbal communications regarding when it doesn't work.

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