Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Do We Need God?

From a blog reader:

"Does everyone have a need for God at some point in their lives? This is the answer I am trying to find out and still searching for... I've been thinking to myself why are human beings 'what's next' creatures? What's next after I study, what's next after I come out and work, what's next after I marry, what's next after I have children, etc. And always when I have gotten the next from the what's next, I'll look to the what's next...so after imagining all this you ask yourself do I have a void? I think this is the answer I am trying to find out: Does everyone in their entire lives have and will realise that they have a void that nothing in this world can satisfy and conclusively for our discussion, only God can?"

My response:

I think it's human nature to ask "what's next?" It's human nature to wonder where we came from, why we exist, what our lives mean in the grand scheme of things. Human beings are naturally curious creatures. Being able to ask such questions is a luxury.

Consider Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which puts basic human needs such as food, water, and shelter at the bottom of the pyramid and more abstract needs such as morality and self-actualization at the top. If you're too busy struggling to survive and working day and night just to feed your family, you're probably not going to have a whole lot of time to wax philosophical about the meaning of life or what's next. You're going to be more concerned with the void in your stomach than with the void in your soul or pyche.

But once your basic needs are met and you have food, shelter, safety, career, family, security, you have time to ask what's next and whether this is all life has to offer. You start pondering the meaning of life, who gave you life and what you should be doing with your life because... well, because you can. And many people who don't find satisfactory answers to those questions elsewhere in their lives look to God and religion.

Or, in some cases, people look to God or religion even before they get to those larger questions, when they can't meet the lesser needs such as food, water, shelter, or health.

So some people might need to bring God and religion into the mix early on in the Hierarchy of Needs: "God, please help me find a job so I can provide for my family. God, please cure me of this disease. God, please protect us from this violence."

Others bring God in much later on, when they can move on to less concrete wish lists: "God, please point me to the path of righteousness. God, please show me the way to salvation. God, give me the strength to do your will."

The thing is, I haven't felt the need to bring God into my hierarchy of needs. My needs are being met with what I already have in my life. So I don't feel the void that this blog reader is talking about. Could you satisfy his curiosity and comment on whether or not you feel a void and whether or not you think it can be filled by God?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Shin,

First and foremost I hope this note finds you OK and that you continue to find love, joy and happiness in your family and close friends.

God fills no void for me and yes I am Roman Catholic; God is a part of my life - an important part of my life BUT God does not exist in my life simply to plug a hole that I have - that by definition would mean that God is only important if I feel I am lacking or deficient in some aspect.

Like you my family is very important to me. I love my wife and children with all my heart. They bring me much joy. I, like your husband, work in the banking industry - A really interesting place to work at the moment given all the probs in the US and this also provides me with challenges and rewards. I think that as I go through different phases of my life different things will be there that will provide interest etc. My children need me differently now than what they will when they are older, my career is placing different demands on me now than what it is likely to do in the future BUT my faith will always play a constant role in my life. I use my faith not as a crutch, not as an excuse, not as a means to be different, or to be the same as other catholics, and I don't use my faith to fill a void - faith will not do that. I believe my faith in God helps define who I am.

The mistake alot of people make is to try and PUSH God on others. Shin you know just as well as I do that you have a choice whether or not to believe in Jesus, nothing that anyone can say will change your mind. You have even said that if your disease were to pass you still would not believe - you in your own way have shown that faith is more than just getting delivered something and in return you believe. To believe in something conditional on it delivering something - I don't believe is faith.

Shin, By asking these questions and exploring what people have been talking with you about, or even just putting forward the questions they are asking is fantastic. I believe you are doing more for 'faith' than some of those people who say they believe but sit in a room and do nothing about it...

I applaud your strength and courage.

Dan

Shin said...

Dan,

That's a beautiful testimony to faith in God. Catholicism could use more spokesmen like you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Shin,

This article coincidentally appeared today on the same subject.

I think it will "chime" with you !

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/09/30/scigod130.xml

Leighbee said...

I agree!

Anonymous said...

I used to believe in God, I was brought up as a Catholic, and I loved the "Illustrated Children's Bible" that we had lying around our house and I used to spend hours copying the stories out. I even got an "A" in Religious Studies at GCSE. I never thought at that time that God filled any void in my life, it was just part of my life. Same as day to day living apart from I used to think about God quite a lot, mainly to answer my own insecurities or to pray for someone who had died or to say "God, I didn't mean that, that was such a lousy thing to do" or "God, please make my friend's Mum who is dying of cancer well again".

When I was in in my "teens" I started to think more about gods and religion, and perhaps having a huge interest in history helped but I just couldn't see the sense in believing in a specific religion anymore. Rather, I just saw our need for God as a missing piece in a jigsaw puzzle, the jigsaw puzzle being the whole entirety of life, and there are still missing pieces, for me. By adding my now defunct belief to the big picture I began to see many more things which suddenly made sense, but that's only my view. I like that I was brought up believing in God. I sometimes wonder if I'm doing the right thing not teaching my children about one specific religion. But at the end of the day, we do what we believe is right. Every way is right as long as we believe in being good people.

E x

Shin said...

Anonymous re: Telegraph article, "Why Do People Believe In God?"

The following excerpts from the article make some interesting points about how religion can aim for the vulnerable and weak, limit them, and set them up for failure.

"If we see death as the doorway to another life, we have to decide whether this next life will be better than this one. To give us hope, we decide that the next life will be better. This raises the question of justice. Do all people go on to this better life, or are there standards that have to be met?

A sense of justice leads us to choose standards, and in doing so we condemn ourselves to living this life in terms of the next. If you set standards which you can easily reach, you limit the amount of self-inflicted pain you will suffer, but if you acquire, say, a Calvinist conscience you set yourself impossible standards, and berate yourself for your constant failure to live up to them...

No religion accepts us as the person we know ourselves to be. Rather, we are told that we are inadequate, unsatisfactory and helpless. We fear that this is so, and to give us hope we construct a fantasy about how we are superior to those who do not share our views.

On these grounds we feel entitled to force our views on non-believers...

We all want to be the person we know ourselves to be, and for others to recognise this and treat us with respect...

When we are able to be the person we know ourselves to be, without vanity or self-pity, we have the wonderful experience of feeling at home with everything that exists.

Some people describe this in religious terms, some in terms of nature, but, whatever, we do not feel the need to have a religion tell us what we should believe."

Shin said...

Anonymous re: Telegraph article,

P.S. Thanks very much for bringing that article to my attention and that of my blog readers.

Anonymous said...

My maid has a poster on her wall.

It says PUSH

Pray
Until
Something
Happens

That's so much bullshit, why waste your time in prayer, do something, if you have arms, legs or means. Make a difference. If we all did that then we might find that we didn't need to "PUSH"

E x

Shin said...

E re: growing up with religion.

I don't mind my religious upbringing so much. I have fond memories of attending church and Sunday School. My father was the pastor of our church so we, his family, sat in the first row of seats and took turns elbowing each other awake during the sermon.

We used to tell my father, "A good sermon has a good intro and a good ending... as close together as possible."

One thing that bothered me, though, was the cadaver hanging from the wall in our house. I would never expose my kids to such a morbid image. Why do people think it's okay for children to look at a figure of a dead guy hanging from a wooden cross, blood dripping from his side and head?

Anonymous said...

When I first went to Catholic convent school, I was already on the path to being a non-believer. In fact, I probably already was a non-believer but I remember so clearly on my first day the girl's running around with their crucifixes that were on the walls of their "cells" (partitions in a long "ward") and saying "you got a bigger one than me, you need it more". After that, I thought "Actually, I can cope living in a convent".
Re the cadaver images, yes, as a child I used to always stare at it and I hated the cruelty behind the image, and reading about how Jesus "died for us" - but I actually thought, even at a young age, "they must have been really bad in those days to even imagine such a torture".
Sadly, my young image of life has not proved true cos it's still going on today. E

Shin said...

E re: PUSH,

Your comment reminds me of a story:

A priest finds himself stuck on the roof of a house during a flood as the water rises to dangerous levels. Finally, a rescue boat comes by but the priest simply says, "Go save someone else. God will save me."

The water continues to rise. Then a rescue helicopter comes by and drops a ladder. Again, the priest declines the offer of help, saying, "Go save someone else. God will save me."

The water continues to rise and the priest drowns. When he gets to heaven he says to God, "Lord, I've served you all my life. Why did you not save me?"

And God says, "I sent you a boat. I sent you a helicopter. What MORE do you want?"

Jess said...

Hi Shin.

Got to know about you through the Channel 8 programme. My sister constantly reminded me to watch it together with her and ever since then, both of us have been reading your blog. We're really amazed by your immense courage and your positive outlook on life. I guess many of us would not be half as brave as you. Your loved ones would certainly be really proud of you. I'm only 18, currently taking A levels. The worries that I have and the unhappy memories are nothing compared to what you are going through. For that, I salute you! Press on! Your strong will in fighting cancer will definitely go a long way. =) Go Go Go! We'll support you all the way! =) Have a great weekend ahead.

Shin said...

Jess,

Thanks for your comment. Good luck on your A levels. You have a great life ahead of you. You have LIFE ahead of you!