A forum for comments on FASD, sharing, life challenges, politics and other things that bother us. By GrampaBrian, FASD Advocate (AKA Brian Philcox)

Posts tagged ‘religion’

Orenda or Not

God is what we make of him, or her for that matter. But, what if god is not a person, super, divine or otherwise. Some say god is always with is, is everywhere. A person, however omnipotent, cannot be everywhere. Ah, but you say god is a spirit. A spirit may have energy but no substance. OK, let’s say god is a spirit and that spirit is everywhere. That sounds a lot like nature. That is how things grow and evolve. Perhaps, instead of a creator we have creation.

The god concept has evolved from local animist practices to the all-encompassing God of the big religions. As the French essayist Montaigne once said, ” Man cannot make a flea, but he creates gods by the hundreds.” We are the creations of our myths are we not? and that is why I favour the term Orenda to describe the essence of what is homo sapiens, the dominant hominid of the last few millenia.

Orenda won’t be found in the Oxford dictionary. It is Iroquoian for the magic power, force of energy or spirit inherent in every being or object.

The real question is, if we are so sapiens or wise, why is the world such a cock-up?

A Man Can Dream, Can’t He?

While trying to gather the fragments of a disorderly life and bring my computer files back into working order, I came across a handwritten note I had written to myself sometime last year. It was simply titled, “Dreams for 2011”. Here they are:

  • Religious bullies let up and let live.
  • Let’s distinguish between hope and reasonable expectations.
  • Let’s stop honouring the war machine and its greedy adherents.
  • Let’s protect ourselves with a national securities regulator.
  • Let’s take care of Canadians in difficulty abroad.
  • Let’s close ‘prisons’ and open ARND training residences.
  • Beverage alcohol industry learns to take responsibility for its products.
  • Shareholders realize that the high cost of doing business is not labour costs but excessive senior management remuneration.
  • Clean water for all, especially on aboriginal reserves.
  • Establish a clear cut purpose and mission trajectory for the Canadian Armed Forces.
  • Politicians make the fundamental shift from what is best for their parties to what is best for society.
  • Let’s get rid of first past the post elections.
  • Let’s hope there will be no more fighting over religious mythologies. 

    Some dreams! Some dreamer!

Random thoughts…

Saw a documentary on the writer Harlan Ellison last night who has written mostly in the fantasy/science fiction genres and done many TV scripts in a similar vein. He’s my age and rather iconoclastic about most conventional attitudes. In other words he is seldom politically correct about any subject but holds to many cogent truths. as a result of this interesting program a couple of thoughts occurred to me:

"How fortunate is this — some people achieve all the things they dreamed of — I, on the other hand, have achieved all of the things I never had the wit to dream of."

"Have you ever noticed how religion is a lot like the theatre — not the ritual part but there is some facsimile — but it’s where the devout adherents have that suspension of disbelief that makes good drama great. When someone asks you how old you are, you can be assured that you are the same age as god (or whatever term you use). That’s because you and god are the same so, stop making excuses, stop the blaming and take responsibility for everything you’ve done, are doing and will do."

Isn’t it interesting how some things will get your thought processes going and an idea that’s not written down merely becomes a thought that simply floats away.

What’s your poison… drugs, sex, booze or religion?


Just before this past Christmas, local retired Rabbi Dow Marmur wrote in his Toronto Star column  that, "’Tis not the season for Atheism". Am I the only one who is getting totally bored by the pius bigotry of the religious folk who appear to be so intolerant of those who don’t believe in "god" as described by the various religious cults? Apparently, in the mind of those who profess to be religious, god is the creator and all that entails. I have a somewhat different perspective.

Marmur suggested that some of us might be getting books as presents over the past holiday that would "ferociously attack traditional religion in the guise of common sense and scientific objectivity". In fact I did receive such a book called God is not Great  by Christopher Hitchens, a witty and articulate writer who has often been controversial, particularly for his views in support of the Iraq War. In this book he flails away, not so much as at god but at the venal, corrupt and wicked things done in the name of religion over the centuries. It was a fascinating read and, of course, did not disabuse the reader of all the dreadful things done by non-believers as well.


For me, the most interesting statement in Marmur’s column was this: “Though exponents of dogmas and norms of every faith and denomination may be flawed, and though affirming God doesn’t necessarily solve the vexing question about the persistence of evil in the world , or the mysteries of life and death, no amount of scientific advances can eradicate the fundamental human awareness of a power that’s beyond us and which tradition has often identified as God.”


Thus, the good rabbi seems to be saying that the notion of god comes from a thoughtful human mind … and this kind of thinking is rather universal. So I wrote to Rabbi Marmur this letter:


Thank you for the interesting column in the Star on Dec. 14/08.


Although I have long since discarded the religious myths of my childhood, I no longer consider myself either agnostic or atheist. And I am in support of anyone whose beliefs are benign in the sense that they are not forced on anyone else or result in the death or injury of others who do not subscribe to the same belief system.


Because I have concluded that all the religions I’ve ever become aware of are based on tradition, superstition and mythology, I still have to deal with what you refer to as “feeling close to a supernatural power that may be described as God or identify by another name”.


So, after many thoughtful decades on the subject of God I have also come to the conclusion that “God” has been misidentified. By this I mean that most religions describe God as some kind of person, albeit a super, divine person.   


Thus the term ‘God’ tends to make people think that there is some kind of supernatural person, somewhere ‘on high’ who is monitoring everything each of us says and does. This notion provides the opportunity for faith leaders to create all kinds of fables that are designed to inspire their followers to lead exemplary lives. And, I daresay, these stories and their accompanying rituals sometimes achieve their intended purpose. However, my own spiritual journey has not led me to support this general attitude promulgated by our major religions.


In fact, I have come to believe that ‘God’ is that spiritual essence within each of us that makes us intelligently human. Of course, I am also convinced that some of us have varying degrees of this inherent divinity. We each have an inner higher power that guides us, I trust, for the best that we can achieve.


I don’t know if my personal belief system is original but I’d be pleased to engage in fruitful discussion on this subject.

To date there has been no response from Rabbi Marmur but I would welcome comment from anyone who has found this entry on FASDance.

Have you ever wondered…?

– Why we’re never satisfied with the politicians we have elected?

– Why some of our children never seem to grow up?

– Why our weight control issues are such a problem when we already know what to do to keep the pounds off?

– Why there are so many ‘one, true religions’?

I think I’ve figured out the last one. Most religions I’ve encountered think that “god” (gods, God?) is a person. Much like us, you understand, but rather a super version that is all-everything. It wouldn’t be so bad if people just left it at that — but no, teams of individuals who are primarily interested in hierarchical power structures insist on creating and perpetuating their own version of the one true religion. And, if only all these different religions could just get along with one another without the rancour and dissension we read about in the papers regularly — not to mention the internecine strife that goes on once the religion reaches a critical mass.

I have come to understand that religion, like all great theatre, requires the suspension of disbelief for it to be successful. All religion, to my mind, is based on tradition, superstition and mythology.

Here is where my wondering (no, not wandering, although I’ve done that too) has taken me. Having started my life as a fervent Christian of the Roman Catholic persuasion, my first crisis of conscience, in my early twenties, took me into the realm of the agnostic. By this time I had read enough about my birth family’s religion, along with a few others, to admit to myself that I really didn’t know or understand the theology that had been fed to me up to that point.

Of course, after a number of years of informal study of religion of all kinds, I had to acknowledge that I probably was an atheist. On the other hand, the notion of simply being anti-theistic didn’t sit well with me. I actually wanted to be positive about my rejection of the traditional.

So, after many years of indifferently mulling this issue over, I have come to a conclusion that rather surprises me. I am, in fact, not an atheist at all. I actually do believe in “god”. Not “a god” or “the god” but in my own understanding of “god”. Now please, hold the hallelujah chorus. This may not be the revelation you think.

Some of you may know that I have spent the last dozen years or so exploring the ramifications of maternal drinking in pregnancy. Because alcohol is a teratogen, it can cause all kinds of malfunctions in the development of the brain in utero. The range of disabilities that results is described by the umbrella term, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Those who have been affected often have no conscience as we understand it and have difficulty discerning right from wrong in many situations, among other dysfunctional behaviours.

Thus, my whole sense of good and evil has undergone a dramatic shift. And what has this to do with god you may well ask? Actually, when you realize that the gods of all the religions are human creations, why should we be surprised that they bear a strong resemblance to us? Even the animists tend to create anthropomorphic souls they imbue into nature. In my mind “god” is a concept, not a person, spiritual, immortal or otherwise. In my opinion, god is that special essence within each of us. It is the spirit that gives us our humanity. In other words, god is a personal attribute which is greater or lesser according to our individual capacities.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with my premise, but that’s not what is important to me. What does matter is that I have come to terms with the notion of “god” and that is satisfying to me and who I am.

I don’t believe that god is good. I believe that “Good is God”.

As Epicurus once said:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”

Faith, Hope & Charity

More book reviews presently…

Why all the fuss about renewing faith? It’s far more important to renew hope. Hope gives you direction. It gives meaning to your life. Faith is simply having a belief system that some people need to cope with life. Hope, on the other hand, defines a purpose for your life. Now, it’s OK to have faith, just don’t let whatever faith you have — in a deity, your fellow man, your society — obscure the fact that you are the real source of your own motivation and direction. Your destiny is up to you. You are the only one who can decide how you will live, behave and act.

When you have hope you have options. Faith narrows or eliminates choice. Having faith in the unknowable, unfindable and unproven may seem like a pius thing to do. However, that kind of faith can arrest your mental processes, narrow the parameters of an inquiring mind and leave you vulnerable to the machinations of hierarchical organizations often interested only in self-aggrandizement.

But, you say, you must have faith in something. Of course I do. I have faith in the laws of nature and in the innate goodness of my fellow humans. I acknowledge that none of us are perfect and some are positively wicked. However, in my experience, almost all have treated me with courtesy, respect and even, sometimes, affection.

I have no belief in an afterlife or in reincarnation. The notion of a super spirit modeled after man who is credited with creating everything we know of is the height of fantasy. It requires some kind of delusional faith to adhere to such beliefs which generally become dogmatized by religions.

My faith is as I have described. I have hope that we can continue to improve and survive as a species. Meanwhile, let us be as charitable as we can among ourselves. This is the main performance. There is no rehearsal and there will be no re-runs.