I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith: Heresies
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Neil, in one of your interviews with Jack Landman on CyberCity, you and he were discussing Escape from Heaven as a book about God, while at the same time being a novel or a work of fiction. The subject came up of the Bible, and also the Dead Sea Scrolls, and you pointed out that the holy books of the world are books about God written by human beings, but that doesn’t mean God does not exist. Just as Escape from Heaven is a novel about God but that doesn’t mean that God does not exist. The point you made was that human characters, people you’ve actually known, you could put into a novel that doesn’t suddenly mean, if you’re writing an historical novel, that all those people cease to have ever existed.
So you were arguing that books about God are interpretations of God but they cannot be taken as the ultimate experience of God in the sense that traditional religious people think they are. But they should be taken more seriously than atheists, who believe that God is a completely fictional construct. With that in mind, I would like to ask you after your experience your epiphany and what you have done in your post epiphany novel, which is Escape from Heaven, and the screenplay, I view those as two separate works. What I would like to know is do you now look at the Bible and the Koran and the Talmud, and all these holy texts of the past, with different eyes than before your epiphany?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: My viewpoint is — I hesitate to use the word — “evolving.” “Unfolding” might be a better word, for what’s been happening.
I find, going back, looking at what I’ve written over the course of my career, back to when I was an atheist, several of my earliest short stories — two of them in particular “Benny Rich is Dead” and “For the Sake of Ten Men,” both in my short story collection Nasty, Brutish and Short Stories — both of them are dealing with religious themes, with Biblical themes. “Benny Rich is Dead” is a fantasy story which takes place in the Court of God. “For the Sake of Ten Men’ has to do with a general, on the brink of nuclear war, who takes Biblical text to decide what the moral choice for him to do is.
I find that I was dealing with this way back before I had thought of myself as having any religious impulse, or any God-driven impulse. I looked back at Contemporary American Authors, when they gave me the form to fill out in 1979, to describe how I saw myself as an writer. I remember the quote I gave: “It is the birthright of every storyteller to try to save the world … we exist in a messianic competition.”
So I was seeing the thrust of what I was doing — even though I thought of it in a secular sense — as being messianic, even back from the beginning of my writing.
I also have to say that part of what I’m doing here, I have had a great deal of difficulty of expressing, of being able to find the right words, which is strange for an writer who lives and dies by words, trying to find the right words to describe an experience which is almost entirely without external referents.
And the primary axiom of General Semantics, when Heinlein got me to read Count Alfred Korzybski and S.I. Hayakawa — the negative axiom that the map is not the territory, the symbol is not the referent — has been extremely useful to me.
I realize that both fiction and nonfiction are symbol structures. They’re maps. And they are not so different from each other when it comes to the way that they reflect reality. One might be a topographical map and the other one a geopolitical map, but they are both maps of reality using different reference points.
It’s almost like a novel is more algebraic than nonfiction and nonfiction is all particulars, where you attempt to draw every particular from reality, a particular time and place, a particular person. Whereas in fiction, what you try to do is, you try to draw a symbol structure, which applies universally, to a number of different points rather than one particular point, but they are both abstractions.
When you draw a particular in nonfiction, it is not the thing itself. It can’t be the thing itself because you are leaving out a thousand particulars and choosing maybe two or three to focus on. You are editing. The very fact of editing makes every work of nonfiction a map and, in that sense, fictionalized.
The point is the way that I’ve come to view scripture is that part of it is history, part of it genealogy, part of it is myth, part of it is political observation, part of it is rhetoric, part of it is lists of laws, part of it is war stories — and it’s all mixed together. What I’m saying is that we cannot look at it dumbly. We cannot look at it as just one level. We have to look at it as a rich tapestry of different things, and my criticism of my atheist buddies when they look at it, for the most part — and I have to exclude certain close friends from this who were very scholarly when it came to the Bible — but a lot of them simply take the dumbest possible interpretation of the Bible and then they try to debunk it, without seeing the richness of the levels, not merely metaphor, not even taking into account the experience of the peoples at that time, the historicity of it, who were part of the context, you understand, aside from anything else.
Now, I am not a Biblical scholar, I have read scripture, reread parts of it. But I have not read it from cover to cover. I’ve read the important parts of the Old Testament and I’ve read the Gospels and I’ve read some of the latter parts of the New Testament, certainly The Revelation of St. John the Divine. So seeing the Bible as all these different things, I try to interpret them according to what it is.
When I’m reading Genesis, I actually regard Genesis as possibly the most important book of the entire Old and New Testament, put together. It seems to be the one which tells us the most about God. Exodus also tells us a lot about God, but Genesis tells us, almost directly, the most about God and what His original intents were. What His original creative purposes were, what He was like as an artist. Which is how we first meet Him, as an artist, as a creator, as a parent.
I draw a lot from that and when I’m writing, now, Escape from Heaven, I’m taking a lot of what I think was — I’m trying to find the right word here — conveyed to me. The word “conveyed’ is nice and loose and doesn’t really focus on the means by which I gained this knowledge. But information came to me, was implanted in me, was conveyed to me, was told to me — whatever word you want here — went from there to here — and then I am again drawing my own symbol structure, my own map. I am creating a mythology and — as I have said — it may be a revisionist mythology, because I am disagreeing with some particulars of the way the myth has been told in scripture.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I’ll get to that in a second. Now, I agree with you that Genesis one of the most interesting things of any religious text. The reason I asked you the question, though, about books as interpretations of God — without being necessarily the Word of God — is when you were being interviewed briefly on Jack’s CyberCity, you were asking John Hogue, regarding his epiphany experiences or spiritual or mystical experiences, what some of the concrete details were. You were looking for a “something” out of that. His response was classic Buddhist Nirvana stuff, to tell you that you were off base to look for something, that his first true spiritual experience was nothing — he experienced nothing — and then Jack —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, but it was not that I was looking for something. It’s that I was getting something.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, but what I wanted to ask you —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I did not try to initiate that experience. That experience was initiated from the other end.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No, you made it very clear that you did not go seeking the experience that you were on the receiving end, just like Lewis maintained when he was tracked down by a God intervention in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Precisely!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I don’t think this guy ever fully grasped that, how much you said you were on the receiving end. You did not seek it out. But when he talked about the big mystical nothing, I realized that, from my point of view, the atheist tracts of the nineteenth century, these superficial, free-thinking tracts, strike me as of more value than this mystical big nothing.
You have never claimed, out of your experiences, a big nothing. On the contrary, you seem to have had an increase in the data inputs from your epiphany, not a decrease or an absence of it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The reason I like the word unfolding or flowering of the experience, is that it’s like certain kernels of very basic axioms were given to me, certain observations, on a very crucial fundamental base level, were given to me. And as these seeds grow, I am able to see more and more of what they grow into.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you have a profound shift in how you view morality from a religious perspective before your experience and after your experience, or is it the same? Because you were a libertarian before — as you and I define the term — and you are a libertarian since, as you and I define the term. So, I’m assuming that nothing in your epiphany experience fundamentally shook or distorted previous libertarian ethics, which I assume you got from natural-law beliefs, which are to some extent religious.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I think that the Creator of natural laws would choose as somebody possibly worth talking to, among us, a believer in natural laws, a person who believes that you could look at the universe we’re in and derive the fundamental premises of moral behavior, as Ayn Rand did. It is possible to observe certain fundamental things, which are the roots of morality, without reference to the Ten Commandments. I am chagrined, frustrated, not sure what word I want to use here, when I hear people like Dennis Prager say that our morality comes from the Bible. That without reference to the Bible, people aren’t going to behavior morally. Now, in a practical sense, it may be true. In some practical sense, people with a religious education may have more of a moral sense, simply because they think about it, because morality is on their mind.
And I have to say, simply as an observation, I have not been particularly impressed in the overall world at people who say that their morality is derived from Objectivism, and they go out and cheat and steal, and do not act in a moral sense. But nonetheless, it’s hard to make comparisons because it’s all anecdotal. There’s certainly no shortage of Christians who act shoddily, or people who call themselves Christians, who act shoddily. It’s no guarantee.
But nonetheless, as a believer in natural law, as a believer that the universe is intended — it was created — to be comprehensible, it puts me more on the side with the atheists than with the superstitious religious person who thinks that the universe — and God’s mind — are fundamentally incomprehensible, and therefore all we can do is look at this rule book and do what we’re told like good sheep.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So you were a natural-law libertarian before and after your epiphany experience.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And what’s more, one of the things that came out of the — I’m not sure epiphany is the right word, but I’ll use it — one of the things that came out of the experience was, in essence, God conveying to me that the reason why He was there, or we were together — whatever you want to call it — was because of what I was and where I had come from. That it wasn’t a random sort of thing where in Oh, God! George Burns is talking to John Denver’s character and he says “Well, you’re like the millionth guy through the bridge gets to meet the governor.” It wasn’t random.
That God was looking for something specific and I fit the job description. I had gone through — to use a much more contemporary reference — the winnowing out to become The Apprentice. There were other candidates who I had to beat out, much like I said. We were in a messianic competition.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you think the fact that you were a natural law libertarian —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: — crucial to it!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: — beforehand, made the experience easier to get through? Because what’s found, from your point of view, is a very strong vindication of the natural-law belief.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Did I take comfort that God agreed with me? Yes!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, the natural-law God position?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now what I want to ask you — because that means that you’ve got things to separate people religiously — certain areas of rule-keeping and laws for their own sake. You don’t have that problem with your C.S. Lewis in terms of the Tao, the Golden Rule, the basic morality level of religion, where different religions have an area of real agreement. A lot of them have an area of agreement.
What I want to ask you, now, is one of the areas that separate people in religion — that mystics sometimes argue against — are the various specific claims that religions make historically. So I want to begin with, do you believe, before or after — I don’t care which or both — do you believe there was an historical Jesus Christ?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you believe he came out of the tomb three days after crucifixion?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay, take it from there, because right there, a lot of people from a Jewish background are going to be screaming for your head at that moment.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Where I differ from the Christians, I guess what makes me a heretic and not a Christian accepted by any of the churches today, is that I do not believe that there was or is an eternal Trinity. I take the idea of One God seriously and the reason I take it seriously is that it fits in with my metaphysical approach.
My metaphysical approach is that the words “God” and “existence” are two different words for the same referent and there is only one existence.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No matter how many universes, no matter how many parallel universes, no matter how many probabilities, it all comes down to one existence.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I Am that I Am, and God being the Alpha and the Omega.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, there is one Existence.
Therefore, how is it that we now have multiple minds?
To me it means that God fissioned. He started splitting off parts of Himself into their own little universes so that they could have free will. But what I’m leading up to is the idea of an emergent Trinity, one which starts out with God fissioning Himself into male and female and then God and Goddess and then out of that, the first angel and the first angel would be the soul which we would identify as Jesus. But who I believe we know Him by the name Adam before then. Because only Adam could redeem his own original sin, and that makes me a heretic to the Christians —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: — and the Jews —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well I’m not sure it makes me a heretic to the Jews because it’s almost a Jewish thought.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, every Jew I’ve run it by, who claims to be a religious Jew, claims you’re a heretic. So I think you’re a heretic to the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims, as far as I can tell. But that makes your theology original.
What I want to ask you is this, because I followed everything you just said, but what I want to ask is this: you really don’t even need the Trinity.
The Trinity was cobbled together for the Nicene Creed, to answer what they deemed to be some contradictions, in problems in terms of how much adoration do you give the Son and how much power does the Son has after He’s Risen and all of this. Isn’t it fair to say that the Neil Schulman theology as applied to the Christian beliefs — I’ll get to some others things in a minute — that the Neil Schulman theology, as applied to the Christian beliefs, is that Jesus is distinct from the Father, to the extent that we ourselves are. To use the old Jewish phrase that upset the priests of the Temple so badly, “the Son of Man,” which only the Jews understood the full significance of “the Son of Man” when Jesus said that.
Isn’t it arguable that Jesus Christ had these supernatural powers, and was therefore able to do things that “normal” human beings couldn’t do, and was truly in that sense more the Son of God than the average Joe — Joseph, the average Joseph — but despite that, is still distinct from the Father? That’s my question. Because you don’t even have the problem of the Trinity, if you have the pre-Nicene Creed approach.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’m not sure that it makes a difference for the following reason: being in flesh, being in a corporeal body, has its own logic because of it, its own consequences, its own effects. God — You take that Mind, and you put it in a human body — and God looks out of the eyes from the body like anybody else, can feel pain, can die, can be mutilated, can eat, can fall in love, can have sex, can suffer dandruff or psoriasis or boils, impotence — any of these things which flesh is heir to — you take God Himself’s soul and figure out a way to put it in flesh — which is, by the way, the reason why Jews consider it blasphemy to consider that, this is what they reject more than anything else — the idea that that Soul could be put into flesh —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, that’s clear. Every educated Christian knows that’s the ultimate heresy to the Jewish belief.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is the heresy to Jewish belief, that it could happen. But nonetheless, if you believe that God is powerful, that God is a genius, that God who created the Heavens and the Earth might want to experience that — He might figure out a way to do it.
Given that — once He has done it — He is a man and, as a man, He thinks as a Man, He feels as a man — and He’s still God.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But can there still be a supernatural dimension intruding on that tent of flesh, which are the miracles of Jesus Christ? Yes or No?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, and I will say exactly how I know. I think that what Jesus experienced was something akin to what happened to me on February 18, 1997 only it was longer and deeper. I had just a taste of it for a few hours, of what it was to have that mind of God inside me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So if you had it for 30 years of a mortal life?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: How about three years? How about His ministry, three years?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, okay the three years of the ministry.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Suddenly, He wakes up one day, and He’s the genetic candidate for that time and place. He’s the clone. He’s the chip off the old block.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The stars are in alignment and into Him it comes.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And He has, for the next three years, what I had for eight hours, and that means that He has time to develop the powers that I wasn’t able to do in eight hours.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I consider that a perfectly legitimate view which a lot of traditional religions would call a Gnostic heresy, that I consider a perfectly valid, plausible scenario, every bit as reasonable as anything argued by the orthodox religions. But I repeat, to repeat an earlier statement, I maintain that it’s heresy to the Jews because it’s not just your normal “wizard.” It’s not your normal magic. It’s not Moses having God stuff channeled through him for the purposes of a miracle. It is that full God consciousness in the full human body that you just expressed so beautifully a few minutes ago. It is that that was so heretical to the priests of the temple and made Jesus Christ the ultimate heretic to the Jews. Therefore, I maintain that you are a heretic to all the religions.
Do you see what I’m saying, do you follow this?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: How dare Man — whether Jew, Christian, Muslim or any of them, these children of God — how dare they instruct God what He may not do?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s exactly right. That’s what they all do, all the traditional religions every last one of them. Sometimes it gets almost funny, with the levels of bureaucratic rules.
It is hilarious that the human institutions pretend to know God’s mind so well, so intimately, and in such excruciating detail, that they can do precisely what you just said. Which makes no logical sense, because these are the same people who turn right around in the next second — you’ve heard it from Dennis Prager — and say that God is unknowable. So how can God simultaneously be so unknowable, and yet all the Jews can know all the rules, all the Christians can know all the rules, all the Muslims can know all the rules? How can you know all the rules and, at the same time, say that God is totally unknowable? That is a total contradiction.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. Here’s the thing, and this is why I love Genesis so much, because Genesis has God telling us about Himself, and by the way so does Exodus. Let’s just talk about those two books, Genesis and Exodus. Forget about the other three books in the Pentateuch. What does Genesis tell us about the nature of God?
Number One, it tells us that he’s not a perfectionist. He looked at His creation and does he say “Perfect”? No. It says, “He looked at it and saw that it was good.” “Good” is good enough for God. “He looked at it and saw that it was good.” That tells us something about His personality right off.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: If it was perfect there would have been no choice in Eden.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right and tells me something else, leading into another…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Point one.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But let me make the point with full force. I maintain that perfection is a verb, not a noun. As a noun, it is without referent — including God Himself — because God — being dynamic, being alive, being a chooser, being an experimenter — is a risk-taker, and all action has the risk of imperfect results. Because, if you did not have that possibility, action would be futile.
The very nature of being a living, active, consciously volitional God, means that you have taken this idea — that you’ve had possibly for eons before — of being perfect and whole, and thrown it out for this Grand Experiment called Creation. And that means You’re a risk taker, You’re an experimenter, You’re a scientist, You’re an artist.
You start out being a scientist, and then being an artist. Which, by the way, is the same evolution we see in children, where they come out, and the first thing they do is start exploring and being a scientist, and then later they become artists and they become creative.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I say that God went through the same sort of thing. That at the moment He decided to make minds, souls, other than His own who could disagree with Him, results uncertain — experiment started — God at that point is no longer one soul, He has given up being the only one existing. There are now multiple existents, the very multiplication of souls itself makes God’s soul part of a community and is the first step to Him becoming a human being.
Going back to what God tells us about it so that we know Him so that He isn’t ineffable and unknowable.
I just had a Passover service a few ago, and I noticed something that I never noticed before.
God says, I am not going to send my angels to do the tenth plague, the killing of the first born of the Egyptians. I will do it myself. Now, what is the word “Passover” about? It means that God asked the Jews to put a symbol on their doors so that He would “pass over” their doors.
Now, let’s think about this for a second. God’s doing this Himself.
Excuse me? If God’s omniscient, what does He need anybody to mark any doors for Him? If God’s omniscient, He doesn’t know which are the Jews and which are the Egyptian firstborn? He’s going to make a mistake?
No! It means that God is operating within our sphere, within this universe, within the rules of this space-time continuum, and He is capable of making a mistake and so He wants a backup there.
Then why does every atheist use God’s “omniscience” and His “omnipotence” as a contradiction to hang their atheism on, and why do so many theologians demand that if He’s not omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, that He can’t be God?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right. Yet Gene Scott was the first TV Christian I ever saw who said there’s no claim in the New Testament, there’s no claim in the Old Testament, there’s no claim in the official holy text of Jews, Muslims or Christians claiming any such thing. You cannot find the verse, because Scott says it does not exist. Now do we agree with Scott on that?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: We sure do.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay. Now let’s go somewhere with this. When do theologians start coming up with this poison and then when did the atheists start figuring that if they could answer the poison they would have answered the claims of religion? It’s worthy of research.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: You now what it is? Oh, I don’t know when it happened but I’ll tell you the purpose for it. It’s inflation. If you can blow God up so much that the word becomes meaningless, you no longer have something concrete to deal with. You’re now dealing with the phantasm, or as I like to say, it’s not the worship of God, it’s the worship of Fog.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So I don’t know where it all began but it’s definitely poison, it’s theological poison, and atheists for generations have felt if they could disprove this crap they’d disprove religion.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Atheists prefer an impossible definition of God because it makes God impossible. Theologians prefer an impossible definition of God because it makes God whatever they want Him to be for their own political purposes. You really have to have met God before you’re really interested in who God is and what He is, and at that point He’s not ineffable, He’s not malleable – any more than meeting anybody else. Everybody who you meet is somebody, and so is God.
You see, the two hardest things I have, in conveying my experience to people, is that what makes me convinced of its reality is that God is real. He come across to me like a real person — a personality, opinions, thoughts. Not the physical body. The one thing that I didn’t meet was the physical body. It’s not like on Joan of Arcadia where there’s this person showing in a different guise every time, I haven’t had that. I haven’t had the John Denver and George Burns experience where you could see Him and feel Him. It was something inside, behind my eyes.
But everything else is exactly the same as meeting somebody. That means, a person with thoughts, opinions, a style, a sense of life, a sense of humor. And that’s what makes me convinced.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It seems to me that the God experience you’ve had — and your belief that He split off all these entities that we are because He didn’t want to be alone, He wanted to have other beings to share existence with and to have free will, your origin of us as the fissioning of God model, for want of a better term, I think God fissioning is a good way to describe what you’ve got — is it not possible that God could have performed this operation whether He created space-time or not? In other words, I’ll state it slightly differently. That what we call existence could be eternal and not in need of creating — like the atheists say — and there could still be God creating all of us? Or God could have created the space-time continuum but the essential thing about God’s relationship to us exists independently of whether He created space-time or not? I can rephrase it you want.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I understand the question but I’m not sure in reality there’s a distinction. Because I see certain necessities involved. The necessity for free will requires, I think, some sort of actual physical separation from God. Now I’m not sure what the word “physical” means in this context but it may mean in some sense an extra dimension, or an extra universe, an extra continuum. I’m not sure of the right word to use. But for the separation to exist and be real, for us to have a will free from God’s will, thoughts free from God’s thoughts, real actual freedom of choice, that it would require creation of an independent universe for us to exist in.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Which can logically imply the creation of the universe, but it’s not essential.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, but that’s my thought of why.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You don’t have a firm certainty on it?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Because you don’t think it’s essential ultimately, to your real discovery.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Let’s just say it’s above my pay grade.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or it’s not essential to your real discovery is another way of putting it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, not yet, but right now it’s above my pay grade. It’s beyond the detailed understanding that I have.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Very good. Good answer. You obviously believe there are creatures that are more supernatural that God creates in addition to us. In other words you have no trouble believing in the angels of various religious traditions?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. But as I portrayed in Escape from Heaven, not necessarily superior. Possibly cognitively or physically superior, but not necessarily superior in the sense that we may have capabilities that they don’t have.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But they may have some we don’t have?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now having said that, can you accept the idea that, from our human perspective, there’s good ones and bad ones, which we can call angels and demons, for want of a better term?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, inasmuch as angels would have free will —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s a reasonable idea.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It necessitates what we would call “good ones” “and bad ones.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now, you don’t doubt that Moses had a God experience, with the burning bush? And Exodus — just like Jesus Christ is an example in human history of a God experience — Moses is an example in human history of a God experience. Do you believe Mohammad was in a cave, as I remember, and he’s supposed to have had contact with angels in a cave?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Did Neale Donald Walsch have a God experience? Did Mohammad have a God experience? Did Joseph Smith have a God experience? Did David Koresh have a God experience? Did Joan of Arc have a God experience? All of these are different people who, at one time or another, have claimed God experiences.
Now the Bible is the writing of writers. The Koran is the writing of writer or writers. So is The Book of Mormon. So were whatever David Koresh thought he was unsealing. So is what Neale Donald Walsch is writing. These are the writings of writers, writers other than me.
Now I’ve had my own experience, and I have my own interpretations, and I have my own writings, which have come to me because of these. It is with things done by other people who claim contact with God, I am in an odd situation.
I do not do what most religionists do, such as Dennis Prager, or Pat Robertson, or Billy Graham.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Which is?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Which is judge their experiences by the written down revelations of other people. I do not judge the reality of what happened to me by what other people have written down. I do the opposite, which is, I judge the reality of what I see in those writings by what I know to be true from what has happened to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You do not let traditions influence your first-hand experience.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Correct.
I do judge the tree by its fruit and the problem I have with Islam is that any club which says, “Join, obey — or die” — as far as I’m concerned — is not a respecter of free will and not a respecter of God.
I am looking for the truth. I am doing it by trying to extract meaning from my experiences, and apply logic to them, and try to tie them in to the vast writings and cultural experience and all these other things. That’s why I find something like Genesis or something like Exodus or the Gospels relating what Jesus did, to be informative to me, because I find things that have happened to me which has meaning there.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: My earlier statement though — the area where you become a heretic even to the Jews — is I’ve known a lot of Jewish Kabbalistic believers, in science fiction over the years, and their imagination shuts down at the precise moment that your imagination catches fire. You know where that is?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Where?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The Jesus story.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s because I see God as an Artist and, particularly, I see God as a Storyteller and that tells me something crucial.
Genesis, the Creation, is a First Act. It tells the story of a creation. It tells a story of a fall.
Now, I will tell you this much. The granting of a patch of land in the Middle East — surrounded by a billion hostile enemies, without any oil on it — does not strike me as a good Second Act.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Amen, brother!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: If you’re going to tell the story of a creation and a fall, you have to tell the story of a resurrection, and Judaism does not tell that story.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter XI: Doctrines
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
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