By Gary Z McGee
“When people can’t handle God anymore, they turn to religion.” ~Eric Fromm
God is not an explanation point or a period but a question mark. God is not an answer but a question. The concept of God was created by humankind to pacify our death anxiety. The universe was simply too big, too ancient, too infinite for our tiny, short-lived, finite minds to handle so we created the concept of God to placate ourselves. It really is that simple.
As such, the concept of God is not something to be feared. Nor is it a thing to revere or to hold sacrosanct. It is a thing to remain forever curious about. The truth doesn’t matter, the Truth Quest is the thing.
It is only when curiosity decomposes into certainty that we need worry. The concept of God should stand as a constant reminder to remain curious and not certain about the uncertain universe that engulfs us. For it is precisely the engulfing universe that leads to fascination, awe, surprise, and the joy of discovering something greater than ourselves.
Facing God is spiritual, turning away from God is religious:
“There is no polite way to suggest to someone that they have devoted their life to a folly.” Daniel Dennett
It is the height of irony that the more one is seduced by religion the more one distances oneself from God, from truth, and from the joy of discovery.
Enlightenment, self-actualization, individuation, and providence can only manifest from a spiritual disposition. Never from a religious one. This is because religion is limited, while spirituality is unlimited. Spirituality is flexible, while religion is dogmatic. Spirituality is open-minded, while religion is close-minded. Spirituality is liberating and courage-based, while religion is authoritative and fear-based. Spirituality is interdependent, while religion is codependent. Spirituality speaks “a language older than words,” while religion speaks a language limited by words.
Spirituality is vulnerable intimacy with the Infinite, whereas religion is veiled invulnerability pretending to be intimate. A spiritual person understands that Infinity cannot be pigeonholed into a finite construct. Likewise, God cannot be crammed into a manmade model. Through such understanding, the spiritual person transcends the finite game of religion to play the infinite game of spirituality.
Rather than turn away from the infinite nothingness of God and vainly attempt transforming God into finite somethingness, the spiritual person tackles the infinite nothingness head-on and creates their own salvation.
As Hingori said, “Spirituality begins where religion ends.” And spirituality continues where God is redefined as Infinity itself.
Redefine God as Infinity:
“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” ~Rumi
Don’t fear God, face God. Don’t turn away from the Great Mystery, look deeply into its mystery. Don’t avoid the void, embrace it in all its painful glory. For therein lies the truth: that the truth will always be elusive. And that’s okay. Let it be elusive. Let it fill you with fascination and awe. Let it transform you into an interconnected force of nature. Let it feed the God inside you.
God is not a finite answer but an infinite question. God is not a closed-in period but an open-ended question mark. Feed the question. Its food is curiosity. Don’t settle for an answer, for there lies stagnation, rotten fruit, and flies in the ointment.
Certainty is like standing water. It becomes murky, poisonous, undrinkable. Clear the water with curiosity. Keep it clean with constant and persistent inquiry. Prevent closemindedness and dogmatism from closing in by remaining circumspect and doing as Aristotle advised, “entertain a thought without accepting it.”
If, as Nietzsche suggested, “Faith is not wanting to know what is true,” then it stands to reason that the opposite of faith—deep curiosity and skeptical inquiry—is the best way to know what is true. Deep curiosity and skeptical inquiry utilized on a long enough timeline leads to the profound realization that there is only one deadly sin: giving up the Truth Quest for “the truth.”
Always keep the Truth Quest ahead of the “truth”:
“In each one of you there is a call, a will, an impulse of nature, an impulse toward the future, the new, the higher. Let it mature, let it resound, nurture it! Your future, your hard dangerous path is this: to mature and to find God in yourselves.” ~Hermann Hesse
Keeping the truth quest ahead of the “truth” is a way of maintaining a connection with something greater than ourselves. It’s truly allowing God to be infinite. Religion compels us to declare a truth. But such a declaration means the end of our Truth Quest. It means the false containment of God. It means disconnecting from something greater than us.
How does declaring a truth disconnect us from the truth? Because we are simply incapable of understanding it. We are too fallible, too imperfect, too prone to bias and bad logic to claim to know the truth. We might as well admit it. We might as well honor our fallibility and always keep the quest for the truth ahead of our idea of what the truth might be. This way, we forever remain connected to whatever the truth may be and thus forever connected to something greater than ourselves: God.
Through our radical detachment from the “truth” we maintain our connection to the quest for Truth. We become the process of a truth unfolding. Never settling at any point along the process, just allowing each point to unfold in an interconnected flow state. The journey is the thing, not the destination. The Truth Quest is the thing, not the “truth.”
This is how we handle God without turning away: We allow the spiritual Truth Quest to be the thing despite our religious compulsion to declare a “truth.” We stare head-on into God’s infinite gaze and discover God within. For God was only ever a mirror.
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (How to Handle God Without Turning to Religion) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.