We are among the first peoples in human history who do not broadly inherit religious identity as a given, a matter of kin and tribe, like hair color and hometown. But the very fluidity of this—the possibility of choice that arises, the ability to craft and discern one’s own spiritual bearings—is not leading to the decline of spiritual life but its revival. It is changing us, collectively. It is even renewing religion, and our cultural encounter with religion, in counter-intuitive ways. I meet scientists who speak of a religiosity without spirituality—a reverence for the place of ritual in human life, and the value of human community, without a need for something supernaturally transcendent. There is something called the New Humanism, which is in dialogue about moral imagination and ethical passions across boundaries of belief and non-belief.
But I apprehend— with a knowledge that is as much visceral as cognitive— that God is love. That somehow the possibility of care that can transform us— love muscular and resilient— is an echo of a reality behind reality, embedded in the creative force that gives us life.
― Krista Tippett, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living
It is surprising to me that one of the great crimes of history has gone unnoticed; the abduction of god by religions. This slight-of-hand has been the cause of countless blood-shed and has been found at the root of innumerable acts of evil. The argument continues today, as to which religion the true god belongs, when what would be most healing and empowering is to free god from the shackles of religious limitation and judgment. It is by emancipating god from the ignorance of our ancestors that we become empowered to explore and express our own relationship with what god may or may not be.
Faith is a state of openness or trust. To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on. In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.
Therefore, she hummed the provincial lullaby she had learned from the officers’ children in the English Quarter of Jerusalem, and watched in fascination while the savage radical’s eyes misted over with tears. For an instant, the prison bars melted away, and she felt God’s presence—for the first time since their imprisonment. She was not a captive, and this man was not her captor. Indeed, they were both merely God’s children.
Cultural and religious traditions that forbid cross-cultural unions prevent peace on earth. Instead of rejoicing that our sons and daughters are heart-driven and love other humans outside of their familiar religious, social or cultural domains, we punish and insult them. This is wrong. Honor killings are not honorable by God. They are driven by ignorance and ego and nothing more. The Creator favors the man who loves over the man who hates.
–Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem
The extraordinary thing we now know, thanks to Crick and Watson’s discovery of DNA and the decoding of the human and other genomes, is that all life, everything, all the three million species of life and plant life-all have the same source. We all come from a single source. Everything that lives has its genetic code written in the same alphabet. Unity creates diversity. So don’t think of one God, one truth, one way. Think of one God creating this extraordinary number of ways, the 6,800 languages that are actually spoken. Don’t think there’s only one language within which we can speak to God.
—Jonathan Sacks, “Enriched by Difference”, from On Being with Krista Tippett
Why did I pray? A strange question. Why did I live? Why did I breathe?
“I don’t know why,” I said, even more disturbed and ill at ease. “I don’t know why.”
After that day I saw him often. He explained to me with great insistence that every question possessed a power that did not lie in the answer. “Man raises himself toward God by the questions he asks Him,” he was fond of repeating. “That is the true dialogue. Man questions God and God answers. But we don’t understand His answers. We can’t understand them. Because they come from the depths of the soul, and they stay there until death. You will find the true answers, Eliezer, only within yourself!”
“And why do you pray, Moshe?” I asked him. “I pray to the God within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions.”
I always adhered to the idea that God is time, or at least that His spirit is… In any case, I always thought that if the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water, the water was bound to reflect it. Hence my sentiment for water, for its folds, wrinkles, and ripples, and- as I am a Northerner- for its grayness. I simply think that water is the image of time, and every New Year’s Eve, in somewhat pagan fashion, I try to find myself near water, preferably near a sea or an ocean, to watch the emergence of a new helping, a new cupful of time from it.