A friend of mine told me he was an Atheist. I asked him what that meant. He said: "It means I don't believe in God."
I asked him: "What do you mean by God?"
He said: "A divine being who created the world and who judges us."
I responded: "I don't believe in that god either, but I'm not an Atheist.
When someone asks me: "Do you believe in God?" It doesn't compute. It's like asking me if I believe in that tree. God is obvious to me, not something I need to believe or not believe in.
Were I to say what God is, I can only offer: "God Is." The moment you start adding adjectives you create limitations and you make God smaller.
The god(s) that most people believe in is(are) very small. This is because people create god in their own image. So we end up with a god who is opinionated, who holds grudges, who will forgive us if we believe the right things, who accepts us into some transcendent paradise if we are "good" and sends us to Hell if we are bad.
In some belief systems (Christian, Islam, Judaism) god has been known to send us into battle to kill the non-believers or anyone he is displeased with. In older versions of Mormonism god tells a forty year old man he is supposed to marry a fifteen year old girl and add her to his group of wives. The god of human beings tells people all kinds of crazy things to do and say that are hurtful to others. Humans justify killing, rape, stealing, bigotry, and rude behavior all in the name of "God."
If you believe in a god who judges, then you tend to judge, too. It's a game of who is in and who is out, who is saved and who is damned. If there were a divine being who thought that way, I would just as soon not be in this universe! Fortunately, there isn't. All we have are images made up by people who think the images are real.
Strip it all down and take it into contemplation, or prayer, or meditation, or art, or music, or walking in the woods. What do you know for sure?
• God is. (That is, there is some greater intelligence than my own little mind--there is something going on--some creative intelligence.)
• I am. Since I am conscious, odds are that I exist. But who is this "I" that I'm identifying with?
• Death is a sure thing. Someday this life as I know it is going to end.
I know. It's easier to find some belief system and latch on. Then you don't have to think. Someone else will tell you what to believe and what to do. You just have to show up and follow the rules. You don't even have to show up--just say you believe. No proof is needed.
I don't "believe" in anything. I don't "believe" in God--at least not the one that everyone talks about. I'm not an Atheist, because an Atheist "believes" there is no higher power. That makes no sense at all, but I respect Atheists for at least beginning the process of challenging beliefs and thinking for themselves. I love Agnostics, having been one, because they admit that they just don't know. Most of us are DK squared. We don't know what we don't know. So we pretend that we do know, and we convince ourselves it's true.
In the New Testament there is a quote: "Seek first the Kingdom...and all else will be added." To believe in this statement means nothing. The verse is talking about surrender. In eastern religions it would be framed as non-attachment or non-resistance. Don't believe in it--just do it. Test it. Create the working assumption that there is an Intelligence greater than you and that It knows more than you, and surrender to it. Let go. Have goals if you want, but release your attachment to outcomes. See what develops. Work on trust. Accept what is and keep moving forward. None of this is about belief. This is spiritual practice. It doesn't involve any special rules or ritual, no god you have to please, no hell to avoid or heaven to hope for--just you present in this moment listening, feeling, sensing what God, the Universe, or whatever name you prefer, is nudging you to do.
by William Frank Diedrich,
Author of Human Adulthood: A Spiritual Romance,
and a few other books, too.