There are some new friends in my "Links to Explore" category in the left-hand column. In the usual web fashion, I haven't talked with them or seen them, and probably never will.
Yet I feel that we're close, closer in some ways than I am with people who I meet face to face all the time. Pondering deep thoughts about life, spirituality, and the cosmos (plus some not so deep) gives us a lot in common.
The folks over at Religious Forums have brought almost 11,000 members together to discuss all sorts of belief systems. I appreciate their Church of the Churchless welcome, and will return the favor by sharing how Phil described their web site to me.
We are a very diverse forum that welcomes anyone willing to be civil, regardless of their spiritual persuasion or lack thereof. That seems to make us nearly unique among religion forums on the net. We are constantly getting new members who have been banned from other forums because they weren't "Christian enough" or "Muslim enough" or "Atheist enough" for the staff of the forum they were banned from.
Indeed, our staff is itself an eclectic collection: We have conservative Christians, liberal Muslims, three kinds of Pagans, atheists, Buddhists, Native Americans, and folks who have not decided yet what they believe on the staff at religious forums. They all have in common a shared belief that civil discussion between people of different views is enriching and beneficial to everyone involved.
Sounds good. Plus, they just added an Eros Room! Even better.
Over at Café Philos, a fairly new blog billed as "commentaries on living, the arts and sciences written by café frequenting scoundrels," Paul finds a lot not to like in a book by Christian fundamentalist James Dobson. Amen to that. And a post about Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion led me to more thoughts about the book on The Buddhist Blog.
Jim is an Eternal Student and writes about what life is teaching him. In an email he told me that he's a little more God-sympathetic than I am, wanting there to be a personal God. Well, me too. I just have the same questions Jim asks in his summary of himself.
And what about religion? Do I go to church regularly? (No, but if I ever find a community of people like me, I will start going again). Do I believe in God? I wish that I could say "yes, definitely". I WANT there to be a loving God behind it all. I want there to be a kinder and gentler (and more intelligent) life after death. And I believe in the duty to help make this world kinder, gentler and more intelligent. I pray every day. And I do what I can to promote kindness and gentility.
But yes, sometimes I get that scary feeling (similar to looking over a high, steep cliff) that maybe there isn't a God. The best I can say is that this world seems like a place that should have a God behind it. And sometimes I can almost see or hear that God in the truly beautiful and meaningful things that happen during the course of a lifetime. But looking at all the evil and pain and suffering, all the hopeless lives, all the coldness of death, I wonder how a loving God could let things get this bad. What is the point of so much suffering, so many broken souls, so much death? There well may be a reason -- just because I can't figure out special relativity doesn't mean that Einstein was wrong, and just because I can't figure out why the world is the way it is doesn't mean that there isn't a "meta-Einstein" behind it.
True. But my bet is that a personal God isn't at the root of It All. Increasingly I find myself inclined toward the philosophy expressed on A Personal Tao, a site I found on one of the sites that found me.
Like Douglas Hofstadter says in his soon-to-be-released new book, we're strange loops, looping strangely.