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Question to the Reader





What is the difference between a silent god and a god which does not exist?


Qi Baishi, Fly a Kite, 1932



Comments

  1. Anonymous2/06/2012

    The existence of hope, I think. The possibility that there is.

    What about you? What are your thoughts on this? :)

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    Replies
    1. Granted. But what of this hope? What would then be the difference between hoping in a God who will nonetheless remain silent, and simply concluding that God does not exist?

      Does hope make silent gods speak? To be crude about it, what then do I "get" when I hope if in any case God remains silent? Couldn't hope be in some sense a more subtle form of psychosis?

      Pardon me for the questions. It's the teacher in me, you know. :)

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  2. Anonymous2/07/2012

    Hello dear saint. Interesting question. Interesting also, the point which has led you to voice it out. Can I fine tune it to mean: Is there really a God? And if there is, does he care enough to answer me, mere me, puny me, so I can hear Him?

    I feel that He has always been silent, in a sense that He is enveloped in mystery and as mere creation we are really unable to pierce through Him unless He gives us the grace to enter His Presence in a way and know Him. The problem can be that He is so silent and we so dense that we mistake the lack of understanding and hearing to be His non-existence or lack of solicitude.

    I also lean (unconsciously, or in split seconds before I catch myself) that maybe “there is no God” when things are realllly not going right in my life and there are more problems than space to breathe and see for example, that the sky is blue and beautiful, but that’s just me. Darn it (Pardon the French).

    I believe that He is a Silent God who speaks to me when we I am most silent also. When I turn off the machine in my head and I start with, Lord I do not understand, help me. But of course believing that God exists , doesn’t mean that my life’s suffering is erased. Oh God how I suffer.

    I remember my prayer before when I was a wee bit younger —Lord, show me your will and help me to understand as I can be very dumb sometimes (or most of the time).

    Thanks for asking the question dear saint. Sleep eludes me, it was a good food for thought on this long night. Take care on your journey dear saint.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello, dear friend.

      Yes, at bottom it's about whether there is any difference between having a God which is unseen, silent, and absent, and having no God at all.

      I'm embarrassed to use this but if "to be is to be perceived," then an unperceived God does not exist--at least for the one who does not perceive him. He may, of course, exist by himself; but if we cannot know that--if he is "enveloped by mystery," as you said--what "good" is that to us? If I cannot enter his abode, how do I know he is even there, or what good is it that he is there? Reminds me of Kafka's "The Law" (http://theclearingroom.blogspot.com/2007/09/kafkas-parable.html).

      But I think I understand what you mean when you heard God speak to you in your moments of silence. I, too, believe that in the most difficult moment of my life, I think I heard him. I think. Or I want to believe I heard Him. That it was Him, and not my voice.

      Thank you too for your thoughts. It gives comfort some times to know that there is someone out there with similar thoughts, questions, and even suffering.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous2/08/2012

      Your reply reminded me of one of my professors, when he told us “You cannot reason your way into Faith or into God." It is not by “perceiving” that you meet or know Him. It is always a leap into the unknown. And I also feel that the depth of our despair or hopelessness at some point, invites Him (or what is a stronger word) maybe even “drags” Him- to speak to us and allow us to hear more sharply His “silent “ Voice.

      Once we hear this voice, we KNOW for sure that it was God because something in us changes. Change, if I may say, that we cannot effect on our own even in a million year of painful trying. A sudden determination to continue living, strength of the will to decide, resignation or joyful acceptance, or whatever. Each one has his way of trying to connect with his God. Whatever works. I’d like to think though that even if I am not utterly “sure” that my prayers reach Him, I know that before I even say anything, He has heard me already, since I know that it is not impossible for Him to completely know me.

      I don’t know if I make any sense, dear saint, but this is from painful experience :) and it made me rest in the certainty that there is a God and that he did not only hear me, he actually loved me even in my “ugliest” and He continues to do so.

      You are not alone dear saint. Thank you again. Courage.

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    3. I understand, almost completely, what you mean when you say that painful experiences open us up so that the divine may enter. Yes, we feel it, and are very much grateful, so much that we acknowledge his grace like we acknowledge that we were saved--as if from death itself.

      Though sometimes I'd like to understand. And such questions come after the crisis, after the thanks and praise. And don't worry, thankfully I'm okay and all. It is when you look back that one asks questions that one could not utter in the eye of the storm--when it was all just a question of survival.

      Thanks. May you continue in your beauty and grace.

      Delete
  3. A dissenting voice - I think both are cruel. One is a spectator unmoved in perpetuity; of the other, nothing can be said.

    But really, the question of difference presumes that there is a transcendent God (and consequently, that there is but one God; that there is no pluralism in the question of religion, or spirituality, or salvation). There's a danger there: many of our pitfalls as human beings in history can be faulted from that belief. The results stemming from that very conviction have been nothing short of terrifying. And that's also why I am attracted to follow the line of Spinoza --> James... But that's too far off to comment on.

    (You shouldn't have read Endo, haha.)

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    Replies
    1. But how does one think of God without thinking his transcendence? By way of immanence, where he can be confused with my self?

      Pardon my shortcomings, Trace, but I do not understand much of what you say. Perhaps we are coming from different starting points. I am trying to describe the concrete situation of a man pushed to the limits of his beliefs, being tempted to doubt, and perhaps not looking at religion or "world religions" as a whole, concepts that may not matter to one man on the heights of despair and looking desperately for something--anything--to save him from a dizzying fall.

      And the little that I know of Spinoza's God is also not comforting: a god which is everywhere and thus nowhere. Thus his silence may remain. . . .

      Delete
    2. I've put off my response to this post long enough; largely because I feel, and still feel, that I am incapable of articulating any succinct answer. But I've found something precious this morning in my hurry to finish a text (and don't bright things shine when we least expect them to?), which capsizes the way I feel about religion. So this is how things make sense to me, this forgetfulness of God:

      “Being is confirmed as that which illuminates things without being identified with things.” This is a “growing lighter” but also a “growing more distant.” This history of being, if there is one, “is a history of distancing, not of drawing closer. Being illuminates to the extent that it withdraws.” If faith persists, it cannot have God as an object to be studied and venerated. As Vattimo reminds us, quoting Bonhoeffer, “A God who is, is not.” - G. Elijah Dann, Philosophy, Religion, and Religious Belief After Rorty

      It's self-reliance, following Emerson. Our responsibility is to ourselves and to others, and not to some “sublime dimension of being” or “the starry heavens”. In the same light, we cannot look to something grand like God - the God apart from us - for salvation. Life is on earth, it's the little things, it's in the mystery of the corporeal universe. It's not about looking up in openmouthed awe, but looking at the horizon at the level of one's eyes.

      And as Rorty would say, none the worse for that.

      Delete

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