I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith: Doctrines
BRAD LINAWEAVER: We’ve talked about when you were an atheist. We’ve talked about when you were an agnostic. We’ve talked about when you became a theist. What I want to suggest to you in this question — which I think is the most important question I will ask you in this series of questions in this entire interview: isn’t it right to say that after you had contact with God, and started making these discoveries — or started having these experiences — that in one extremely specific sense, when you became a theist you also became an atheist again about one thing?
You are now a more-convinced atheist than even most atheists, of knowing certain beliefs of what God is to be false. In other words, when a person has an experience of God, doesn’t that force him into knowing certain views of God must be untrue. And if that is so, isn’t that the ultimate irony, that the deep experience of God must make you an atheist about other people’s absolutely false impressions, if it runs too counter from what you have experienced?
Clearly your view of traditional religion’s misinterpretations of God, from your experience, would make you an atheist toward many traditional religious views of God, only because you’ve experienced God and he’s not that guy! That is my primary question in this book.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s a brilliant question. I love the irony of it.
God is an existent. He has His own identity. The law of identity says both what a thing is and what it is not. It is the sum of its characteristics, the sum of its particulars.
And God is the sum of His own particulars, He has a specific identity. The Law of Identity says that a thing is its characteristics.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And God is His characteristics. He is a specific thing. Just as you, Brad Linaweaver, cannot, at the same moment, be both a communist and an anticommunist.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: You cannot both be a libertarian and a non-libertarian. You cannot both be wearing charcoal pants and red pants — unless you’re wearing one over the other.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But the point is, the sum of whatever you are — the fact that you wear glasses, the fact that your hair is a particular color and is a particular pattern — these are the specific particulars that make you you.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Sure.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The choices that you make, the decisions that you make, the opinions that you have, the jokes that you tell. All of this sums up the particulars which become Brad Linaweaver.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And God is the same way.
The particulars of His choices, of His thoughts, of the consequences of what He does, are the particulars that make God God as a person.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But when you meet Brad Linaweaver, you are meeting somebody, and noticing some of those characteristics and noticing some of those particulars, that make up that character. Is that not true?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And therefore, having an experience of God starts giving you an impression of God in the same way that having contact with a fellow human being gives you an impression of that fellow human being, correct?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is correct. My experience of meeting God is the same as meeting any other human being I’ve ever met with the one difference that there was not, outside of me, an observable physicality.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So here’s the logical corollary to the other question: here it is.
You are not a New Age mystic, though many people might consider you that, who do not pay attention to what you’re saying. Even if this book is being sold in that part of the bookstore, you are not New Age because you are being Aristotelian and Randian about the Law of Identity. When you are saying that God cannot be a certain thing and its opposite, simultaneously, or anything you want God to be — to be more precise I’ll repeat that, anything you want God to be — at that moment you part company with most of the so-called New Age mystics and it puts you in the company of traditional orthodox religion.
But you are not done because Part Two is that your encounter with the “characteristic particulars” of God show you — from your point of view, which is the only point of view you have to work with — that the claims which traditional orthodox religions make about God are mistaken. They are wrong. They are not talking about the God you have encountered.
And for the same reason, that you cannot be a New Age mystic and say God can be kind and cruel, and wet and hot, and tall and short, all simultaneously — for the same reasons you reject the New Age God–can-be-anything position — you are in direct conflict with all the traditional religions of the world to the extent that the God you have discovered — a God who’s a libertarian, a God who is even subject to natural law himself — is not the God of the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims or any other religion I have ever studied.
That is the corollary to my big question.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The God who I have met is the God of the Jews, the Muslims, the Christians and all the others. But they run away.
The doctrines — the articles of faith that you must adhere to – “I accept Israel along with God!” to be a Jew, “I accept Jesus as my personal Savior!” in order to be a Christian. All of these things are external to the attempt to accept the reality of what’s going on.
In the same way, we are told in the Old Testament that the Hebrews went to Moses and said, “Don’t have God talk to us again! Have Him talk only to you! We can’t take this!”
A lot of religion is substituting tradition, ritual, form, performance — anything — to give them the impression that they are obeying this God, but the last thing that they want is the personal contact because that’s dangerous — that’s scary.
Let me put it another way.
Suppose you had a child who was orphaned, and that child always wanted to meet his parents, and then, some day, discovered that he wasn’t, in fact, orphaned, but that he’d been placed in an orphanage and his parents were still alive.
Over his entire life, he has built up all these expectations and beliefs and ideals, and images and stories and fantasies –about what his parents will be and who they will be … when he finally meets his parents.
And he leaves the orphanage, and moves in with them, and his parents are real.
His parents are grownups, and when he does something that they don’t like, they spank him. They’re capable of delivering pain.
And he realizes something about his parents that he didn’t fantasize about: his parents are fundamentally dangerous.
Now C.S. Lewis — when he describes Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia — a phrase over and over and over again throughout The Chronicles of Narnia is: he is not a tame lion.
When Jill Pole in The Silver Chair meets Aslan — not knowing who He is, she asks, “Do you eat girls?” and Aslan says, “I’ve swallowed up entire kingdoms, boys and girls, men and women.”
This is not somebody who’s trying to make you comfortable with the situation.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s Jehovah’s destruction of people in the Old Testament, isn’t it?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. God — if real, if not merely a myth, if not just a story, if not a creation of religion — is fundamentally dangerous because He has power and His own will, and we are less powerful and our wills can be conquered by His decisions.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You know where the phrase “God fearing Christian” comes from?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: They’re afraid of God and think that God is scarier than the devil!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, right. Okay. And the fear of God is, in some sense, something that must be overcome in order to meet God.
Now, let me go back to your original point — which I love — the idea that I’m an atheist who knows God, and is an advocate for God.
If you take it, I am not an a-Deist — I’m not without God — I am an a-theist, in the sense of…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Without theology! You are without theology!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Without theology, right!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: This would be a different definition of “atheist” that would actually make more sense than how the word is normally used.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: In other words, if we look at it not in the metaphysical sense but in an epistemological sense, that I am not rejecting God. I am rejecting the maps.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That regarding religion’s maps of God, I’m being a cartographer and I’m laying them out on a table. And I’m saying, “Yes, this is right here. This is right here. No, that’s wrong!” I’m correcting the maps.
I’m looking at the maps, and I’m saying, “This matches up with my experience, with what I know. This is wrong. This is impossible. God couldn’t possibly be this, or this, or this.”
So, in essence, I find myself outside the religious traditions, even though I am at the center of all of what they say their core belief is.
Because, I reject Judaism but I accept the God of the Jews.
I reject Christianity but I accept the God of the Christians.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You can say the same for Islam too.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I reject Islam but I accept the God of Islam.
I have been less concerned with labels for a while now, and I had to be, because I realized that I was more concerned with being true to my principles than being true to my label. And again, this is a theme which goes through a lot of what I’m going to say.
I was not concerned: am I still a Jew?
I was not concerned — if I bring Jesus Christ into the picture — am I now a Christian?
It’s interesting to contemplate, but it’s not important to me. What’s important to me is: am I accurately apprehending the reality of what God is and what He is saying?
Both Jews and Christians, today, act as if God and Jesus are historical figures and not active in our daily lives. If you pray, maybe a very tiny miracle might happen, occasionally. But it’s not something to be expected in the same way that you are a blind man walking around when Jesus is doing His ministry. You heard the rumor that here is this man who can cure the blind, and you actually find Him.
And He goes up to you and He can.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter XII: Supernatural Law
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
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