Statement VIII

by zenquaker

Corollary 4-1: There is a Personal Connection to God (The Inner Light Corollary)

By the Pervasive Principle (P4), God is All. Therefore, we are a part of God. We have a personal, direct connection to God. The Quakers call this “that of God within us” or (my preference) “the inner light.” We do not need someone else to mediate between us and God.

This is why most Quaker meetings don’t have preachers. Rather than have someone else tell them what God thinks, they try to figure it out for themselves. They sit quietly listening to that inner light, that connection with God. When they discern something with it, they stand up and share it with the rest of the meeting. No one is a preacher, and everyone is a preacher.

Now, just because you don’t need someone to mediate between you and God doesn’t mean that other people can’t help guide you to God. Certainly others have helped me on my spiritual journey. It’s the whole finger pointing at the Moon again. You don’t need the finger to see the Moon. But if you’re having trouble seeing the Moon, that finger can be gorram useful.

This corollary feeds into my dislike of proselytizers. One in particular drove me nuts. I was taking a world religion’s class at a community college, mainly because I was bored, but also because I was hoping to get a better grasp on Islam. Anyway, every time we would get to a new religion, this one guy would raise his hand. He didn’t really have a question. He just wanted to tell us about the time his was working for a Christian food organization, feeding starving people of whatever religion we were studying, tons of those starving people converted to Christianity, and doesn’t that prove that Christianity is better than whatever religion? It got to the point where the whole class would groan when he raised his hand. First of all, there’s the obvious offense of preying on weak, starving people in order to get converts to your religion (which is why I rarely donate to religious food organizations). But to me there is also the general offense of telling someone else what God believes. That’s not your place. That’s God’s place. And to shove your way in between someone else and God is the ultimate in hubris.

That sort of makes this whole series of blog posts hypocritical. But my goal here is not to tell you what you should believe, my goal here is to tell you what I believe. Even before that my goal is as much to figure out what I believe, to go through it step by step so that I really understand it. This is I think incredibly important. There was a fascinating Freakonomics blog post that I can’t find right now. There was a study done that showed that conservatives understood economics better than liberals. They redid the study with different questions and found that liberals understood economics better than conservatives. The general finding was that if the correct answer challenged the ideology of the person answering the question, they were more likely to choose the incorrect answer. I would like to think I’m above that sort of thing, but thinking you’re perfect can be rather dangerous (I try to limit it to weekends). But if you don’t understand what you believe, then you can’t catch yourself when the truth contradicts your beliefs.

Derivative 1: God is One (The Monotheism Derivative)

If God is All (the Pervasive Principle, P4) and All is One (the Unity Principle, P3), then God is One. I guess you really have to show that identity is transitive for this to work, but I’m going to take that as assumed and roll with it. Just because God is One does not mean there are different ways of looking at Him, different perspectives on Him. But we should not forget the underlying truth that God is One, and that the God we are worshiping is the same God that those weirdos across the street are worshiping. That can only help use get over our perception that those guys across the street are weird.