When do you know when to let God go?

"Letting God Go" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Letting God Go” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

In my new book I chronicle my journey towards the peace of mind I have today. Order it HERE.

My beliefs were in trouble at several points in my life. But I want to share one moment in particular.

I have atheist friends who gently questioned me along the way. They would read my blog, back when I talked a lot about faith and belief and God and so on, and ask me questions as friends would. I experienced the frustration of trying to explain my beliefs and realizing I was running out of ammunition. As I was talking or writing, I was starting to even question the voracity of what I was saying.

Do you know that feeling?

I knew I finally arrived at the final frontier of my faith when I responded to my atheist friend’s question, “But how do you know there is a God? What proof do you have?”, and I said, “I just feel it.”

BOOM! I knew I was done.

Why?

It took three steps:

1. I had come to the conclusion many years ago that there is no proof of God’s existence. Of course not. There cannot be and there should not be. Otherwise, why would we be taught that faith is necessary? There may be evidence, but this is not enough to reach a verdict. There must be proof and there isn’t any. This, theologically speaking, is consistent with the nature of God.

2. So, abandoning the possibility of rational proof, I resorted to my feeling of God. I felt something. When I thought about my God I felt something, and very deeply. But this was a problem because I already knew that feelings and thoughts have a mutual agreement to corroborate one another. This is why I knew I was in trouble. I knew that we humans are capable of believing anything at all, from the sublime to the ridiculous, and that our feelings will confirm those beliefs.

3. This was when I finally stopped believing my thoughts. When I realized, painfully but joyfully, that the word is not the thing, that the belief is not the thing, that the idea is not the thing, then I abandoned my trust and dependence on my thoughts and feelings. I noticed them and that was all. When I realized What Is rules, that Reality is All, then peace of mind settled in for good.

And only when the mind is at rest can we know what is beyond the ideas and the words.

I do not reject my history or my beliefs. I do not get upset about them. They just are. Like this cartoon suggests, the God I believed in set me free. But I came to a place where I had to set that God free. I had to let God go.

This is the only way I could find out what is True.

Sometimes I recognize my own struggles when I hear or read other people. When they insist they will never question their belief in God or never doubt his existence or will never ever not trust the wonderful feelings they have about God, when they feel assured deep in their being about God, then I wonder if they are being invited further into the abyss perhaps we have all feared and are firing off their final rounds of defense. I’m not dismissing belief. But I do claim that there is something beyond it.

If you know what I’m talking about, or are afraid you are about to, come join us at The Lasting Supper. This is the kind of stuff we talk about in a protected and supportive space.

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13 Responses

  1. Harvey Joyner says:

    David,
    Thank you for the cartoon and the commentary (or testimonial).
    I can so identify with what you are saying. Such has been my journey from Southern Baptist to Unitarian Universalist to the United Church of Christ, a tent with a clear center but with flexible edges and with diverse beliefs and opinions. Having said that, “My easy God is gone,” and I am attempting to practice a Christianity without any dogmatic belief in God. Again, thank you for providing a safe and encouraging space to share!

  2. purvez says:

    David, in the short time that I’ve been reading your thoughts here….this is the first time I’m beginning to understand where you’ve reached.

    I am very glad for you for your peace of mind. It is indeed a very special place.

  3. Caryn LeMur says:

    Like Harvey, my deconstruction and reconstruction ended up back in a seat of belief. Interestingly, it simply is. No great proofs needed.

    And like Purvez, I am glad you (David) have peace.

    I think that there are some called to obedience (and drop anchor to stay put), and I hear them now. They need the mentor of the Law of Moses, and work his math-doctrine problems daily. May the Lord God bless their safe harbor and their school work.

    But some are made (or born or called) to exploration (and they only use a ‘sea anchor’ when faced with a driving storm). The need to live the Law of Christ, and work many relationships daily. May the Lord God bless their deep waters and their work in the field of mankind.

    And yet, I think, some now stay in harbor or at sea, and no longer believe. They live according to a new heart. They seek few answers, but rejoice in many questions. They can hear the mentor, or Christ, or many others. They need peace, and find it within daily. They often just rejoice in the amazing-ness of living.

    In some ways, I think this latter group are closer to living the Garden of Eden’s relationship than the others. They simply are ‘in the now’. They perceive so much because their view is so broad.

    There is room, in my mind, for all of us to believe or not believe. God is that big.

  4. Yes believe or not believe… both the same in my opinion.

  5. Bernardo says:

    “But I came to a place where I had to set that God free. I had to let God go.” Well said and hopefully this soon will be the comments of the billions in the world still brainwashed from birth in the absurdities of religion!!

  6. Not all of religion is absurd. However, any brainwashing about anything is.

  7. Bernardo says:

    And Caryn,

    God is not that big as it does not exist. Never did and never will.

    The Law of Moses? You mean the laws of the Egyptian Book of the Dead that were used by the Jewish scribes to generate the Ten Commandments and then then added mythical Moses’ name to their borrowed laws.

    And the laws of Christ? Like the Golden Rules? Just more plagiarized rules by the scribes of the embellished NT.

    “As a concept, the Golden Rule has a history that long predates the term “Golden Rule”, or “Golden law”, as it was called from the 1670s.[1][6] As a concept of “the ethic of reciprocity,” it has its roots in a wide range of world cultures, and is a standard way that different cultures use to resolve conflicts.[1][5] It has a long history, and a great number of prominent religious figures and philosophers have restated its reciprocal, “two-way” nature in various ways (not limited to the above forms).[1]

    Rushworth Kidder discusses the early contributions of Confucius (551–479 BCE) (See a version in Confucianism below). Kidder notes that this concept’s framework appears prominently in many religions, including “Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and the rest of the world’s major religions”.[7] According to Greg M. Epstein, “ ’do unto others’ … is a concept that essentially no religion misses entirely.”[8] Simon Blackburn also states that the Golden Rule can be “found in some form in almost every ethical tradition”.[9] In his commentary to the Torah verse (Hebrew: “ואהבת לרעך כמוך” ca.1300 BCE):”

    You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

    —Leviticus 19:18[10], the “Great Commandment”

    Did the historical Jesus utter a version of the Golden Rule? Luke 6:31 = Matt 7:12- no he did not according to the findings of many contemporary NT scholars.

    e.g Professor Gerd Luedemann [Jesus, 151f] notes the ancient and diverse attestation of this saying in antiquity, including its earliest occurrence in Herodotus III 142, 3:

    “I will not do that for which I censure my neighbors.”

    From Ludemann’s book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 151-152, ” In view of the widespread attestation of the Golden Rule in antiquity and its generality, it cannot be attributed to Jesus.”

    See also: http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb033.html

  8. Kris799 says:

    I think I am at this point. I am letting go of the idea that the Judeo-Christian God is real, but I can respect the myth. It is scary, but liberating at.the same time.

  9. Ducatihero says:

    Thank you for sharing your testimony David. That explains so many things and allows me to come back and comment.

    It shows me where I have made some assumptions, and I sincerely apologise for that. It shows for my part where I have contributed to any difficulty an to know therefore what to do to change to avoid similar.

    As what you had to go on for faith was a feeling in response to your friend’s questions, that makes things clear.

    For me, my experience is different and is not about a feeling. It is about experiences that have left me rationally in a position that I could not do anything but believe and continue to believe, and that’s OK I don’t have space to go into here to share why that is.

    If any of my friends have asked me a similar question about proof. It has been to give a testimony about my experiences. Then leaving them to weigh it up for themselves. Of course, there equally is no proof for the non existence of God, something which sometimes overlooked in such conversations.

    There is an assumption in the question “when do you know when to let God go” that there is a tine to let God go. Well, the only thing I can say about that is that I have let go of many false gods that had control over my life to find freedom. Though you will appreciate that for me it is working to stay connected to God.

    Culturally that makes me different in my family an most social circles I am in but that’s Ok, sometimes it’s good to have someone around that is a bit different.

    It would seem that sometimes when folks have experienced difficulties with this, it’s because of individuals or churches being unloving or not representing God well in some other way.

    However I would ask, is there ever any individual or group or institution or family that is always loving?

    So for me, I hope I am not heading deeper into an “abys “. Do I have doubts, fears or questions about my feelings about God? Sure I do. It seems from reading the Psalms I am not the only on in history to have wrestled with and struggled with such issues.

  10. Caryn LeMur says:

    Bernardo: the “Law of Christ” is from the Book of Galatians (chapter 6). It is one of the most historically accepted letters of the Bible. You may wish to research the authenticity of the Hauptbriefe.

    It is not textually related to the Second Command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    I adore the Law of Christ, which I will paraphrase:

    “You that are spiritual (or mature): when you see someone overcome (that is, over burdened), then come alongside that person. [Not above nor under – but as a co-equal.]

    “Gently restore [what you can restore; or what is restorable].

    “All this, while considering your own weaknesses lest you also be tempted.

    “Bear each other’s over-burdens, and thus fulfill the Law of Christ.”

    It is the Law of Christ that counseled me during my time of working within the prison, and later visiting some friends serving time.

    It is the Law of Christ that protected me when taking food, and cooking within the hidden camps of ex-felons in the woods.

    It is the Law of Christ that governs me now, at this phase of my life, wherein I write simple letters to help ‘restore what I can within the person that is over-burdened’. In those simple posts (or letters), I strive to stay their co-equal (not above them; nor below them). I share my similar stories in hope that some small saying or thought will gently touch them and give them one small hope.

    May I offer that it is easy to tear down. It is much more difficult, and much more vulnerable, to build up.

    Sincerely; Caryn

  11. Bernardo says:

    Fran,

    Many OT, NT and koran thumpers are actually thumping the rules and codes of the ancients like King Hammurabi and the Egyptians who wrote the Book of the Dead and who did NOT need revelations from angels or mountain voices to develop needed rules of conduct for us hominids.
    “Hail to thee, great God, Lord of the Two Truths. I have come unto thee, my Lord, that thou mayest bring me to see thy beauty. I know thee, I know thy name, I know the names of the 42 Gods who are with thee in this broad hall of the Two Truths . . . Behold, I am come unto thee. I have brought thee truth; I have done away with sin for thee. I have not sinned against anyone. I have not mistreated people. I have not done evil instead of righteousness . . .
    I have not reviled the God.
    I have not laid violent hands on an orphan.
    I have not done what the God abominates . . .
    I have not killed; I have not turned anyone over to a killer.
    I have not caused anyone’s suffering . . .
    I have not copulated (illicitly); I have not been unchaste.
    I have not increased nor diminished the measure, I have not diminished the palm; I have not encroached upon the fields.
    I have not added to the balance weights; I have not tempered with the plumb bob of the balance.
    I have not taken milk from a child’s mouth; I have not driven small cattle from their herbage…
    I have not stopped (the flow of) water in its seasons; I have not built a dam against flowing water.
    I have not quenched a fire in its time . . .
    I have not kept cattle away from the God’s property.
    I have not blocked the God at his processions.”

    “The Book of the Dead was written circa 1800 BCE. 2 The Schofield Reference Bible estimates that the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt and the provision of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai occurred in 1491 BCE., some three centuries later. Many religious liberals, historians, and secularists have concluded that the Hebrew Scripture’s Ten Commandments were based on this earlier docu-ment, rather than vice-versa.”

    And it appears that Paul borrowed heavily from the Jewish scribes who concocted the OT i.e. http://www.bsw.org/biblica/vol-80-1999/peace-and-mercy-upon-the-israel-of-god-the-old-testament-background-of-galatians-6-16b/320/