Yo versus God

One can try to redefine "God" to be compatible with what we call "Yo." Indeed, that is what we tried to do when we first formed Yoism, before we came up with the word Yo. But we kept running into major conceptual problems when we tried to remove powerful connotations from a word people felt they knew and understood. First, no matter how careful we were to cleanse away archaic connotations, many atheists (for example, Richard Dawkins) and agnostics—who (often unbeknownst to them) are true believers in Yo—could not hear what we were saying when we used the word "God" in this new way. It was as if they became deaf or we were just babbling nonsense; they really couldn't hear what we were saying about the importance of religion in rational living.

Second, we found that in our conversations with others who liked to use the word "God," our discourse often started to slip into magical thinking. These magical connotations are comforting to some people. Unfortunately, they support the maintenance of those fanciful beliefs that our species must leave behind if we are ever to face Reality and stop clinging to dangerous, divisive, childish notions. We decided a clean break was necessary and so we decided to use the syllable Yo to refer to the Divine Mystery that can be proven to exist.

Be that as it may, here is a very Yoan attempt to translate the traditional God concept into a modern notion that is completely consistent with other modes of understanding, e.g., science, and specifically evolutionary biology. For those Yoans who feel comfortable with the word "God," Michael Dowd, co-creator of "The Great Story," offers a way of using the word that is quite consistent with Yoism.


Job’s God versus Yo

Like God, Yo rewards us with life
(and punishes us with death).

Dr. Daniel Kriegman

Nobody gets out of here alive.

In this manner, Yo, the Divine Mystery, is very much like the Old Testament God of the Book of Job. The big difference is what Yo punishes and rewards us for. For example, the biggest “punishments” in all human history — i.e., ugly, massive suffering brought on by human behavior in the past as well as punishments that loom in humanity’s future — have been and are likely to be derived from religious beliefs such as worshiping the God of the Old Testament, the very thing that that book tells us God will reward.1 In contrast, Yo will punish us for the blasphemy of turning away from Yos Manifestation (Reality) and toward childish fantasies that lead to insane, violent, inter-group behavior.

But, putting that aside (that is, ignoring those aspects of the Old Testament that demand subjugation to an imaginary, humanoid deity in return for magical, special dispensation from Reality), it is very interesting to contemplate how Yo is like God, i.e., like the God of the Book of Job.

Like God, Yo manifests as forms and events that are terribly painful and have no clear meaning. Yo also manifests as forms that are incredibly rewarding with rewards often going to people who are not particularly good or nice. That is, like God, Yo is highly arbitrary, as Yos “Will” (i.e., the structure of the world and the Laws of Nature) manifests as a universe in which many rewards and punishments (and the main forms of the latter are disease, injury, and death that all must face) have nothing to do with how we act, how we behave.

For example, consider how the Old Testament God reacts to Job and his friends. First, as a test, God allowed Satan to goad Him into inflicting upon his righteous servant, Job, great suffering, pain, and the elimination of any joy in his life. Then Job’s friends come along and try to explain why Job is suffering: Obviously he has angered God in some way and he needs to take responsibility for his transgressions.

Job's friends think they know why God does what God does and they claim that — knowing God’s will and the way in which God works — they are justified in standing in judgment over Job and insisting that his wickedness must be the source of his suffering. But the reader knows that that is not the case. The reader is aware of the challenge that Satan had made to God and the test that God is putting Job through — that Job only loves and obeys God because God has rewarded him and that, if Job suffered sufficiently, he would turn away from God.

Job cries out in his suffering that he is innocent (which he is) and that he cannot comprehend why God would torture him so. He repeatedly asks God to tell him what sins he committed, implicitly saying he is blameless (which he is). His friends, again thinking that they have valid knowledge of God’s nature and will, insist that Job is wicked in some way, maybe in his heart if not in his overt actions. Job’s claims of innocence they see as blasphemous accusations against God.

Job will have none of that. Though he acknowledges that God is unfathomably great and that he is in no position to judge God, he also unrelentingly says that he is just crying out in pain; he insists that he is innocent and continues to ask for some explanation for his suffering so he can do something about it. And if God chooses not to answer his question, then he asks that God at least let him die.

Job speaks the lament of all humans who must ultimately face our own deaths and/or the destruction of those we love: Why do these things happen to those who are not wicked or disobeying God? Suffering would be much more tolerable if there were some rhyme or reason to it because then there would be a way to avoid its terrible sting. And when its sting is unavoidable, at least it would seem fair, just, understandable. But why would the Almighty, Loving God create a world with so much arbitrary suffering? As others have noted, either God is not Almighty (in which case, He is not really “God”), or He does not care about us (in which case we are fucked and might want to fear and obey God but have no reason to believe He is lovable), or He is not (in which case, the world is an empty, physical mechanism).

Indeed, the suffering of people who are good and the frequent, relative, joyful triumph of evildoers has been shown to be the primary reason that people lose their faith. The invention of an afterlife in which the evil ones get eternal punishment and the good receive eternal rewards is the religious attempt to respond to this problem. This is the theodicy that was developed by Christianity and perfected by Islam. This answer to the theodicy problem may explain both their incredible success and the relatively greater success of Islam.2 While this answer works much of the time — religious people are able to ignore the Reality in front of them and find solace in their faith in an imaginary world — its failure remains the single most frequent reason for the loss of faith. But that is another story.

Let’s return to how God and Yo are alike (again, ignoring, for the moment, the differences). In the Book of

Job, Chapter 38

The LORD Speaks

1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind. He said: 2 “Who is this that darkeneth counsel with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4 “Where wast thou when I laid the earth's foundation? Declare, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Who stretched the measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone 7 while the morning stars sang together . . .? 8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb . . . 10 when I made the breakers its boundary set its gates and bars, 11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt?’ 12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place? . . . 16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? 17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Have you seen the doors of the shadow of death? 18 Have you comprehended the full extent of the earth? Say so, if you know it all! 19 “Which way leads to where light has its home? And darkness, where does it dwell? 20 Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? 21 Surely you know, for . . . you have lived so many years! 22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail . . .? 24 By what way is the lightning dispersed, which scattereth the east wind over the earth? 25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, 26 to cause it to water a land where no man lives, a desert with no one in it, 27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass? 28 Does the rain have a father? Who hath begotten the drops of dew? 29 From whose womb comes the ice? And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it 30 when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen? 31 “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades or loosen the belt of Orion? 32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Great Bear with its cubs? 33 Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you determine how they affect the earth? 34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? 35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are?’ 36 Who endowed the heart with wisdom or gave understanding to the mind? 37 Who, by wisdom, can number the clouds? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens 38 so the dust becomes a mass of mud and the clods of earth stick together? . . .

In this passage, we see God, the Almighty Source of All, as being completely unintelligible. The message is that God is clearly way beyond human comprehension. So, that is one way in which Yo — the Divine Unintelligible Mystery out of which all that is intelligible manifests — and God are alike.

But there is also another way.

Despite the capricious often incomprehensible nature of much of the workings of God’s universe and the ultimate suffering that all must endure (at least in the real world), the Judeo-Chrislam God supposedly rewards those who obey Him and punishes those who ignore or disobey Him. With great force. He often kills the disobedient and showers great riches on those that follow His Instructions. Just so, Yo.

Unlike the imaginary God, however, often Yo actually rewards those who follow Yos Instructions and severely punishes those who do not. That is, Yo, the Divine Mystery that manifests as Reality, enables the child stricken with appendicitis to thrive after a simple operation and destroys those whose parents withhold medical treatment and instead put their faith in an imaginary God.

Yo is Almighty. As humanity is doing, thou ignorest Yos Instructions at great peril.

Yoism is our attempt to bring humanity to our senses.

1There is another important difference that is a corollary to this big difference: In rewarding devotion to God, humans are encouraged to engage in magical thinking, as if their devotional (prayerful) feelings and acts can magically influence the physical world and somehow abrogate the Laws of Nature.

2The Bible is full of eternal punishments and rewards. However, the Qur’an completely outdoes the Bible in its repeated references to eternal rewards and punishments in the afterlife. And we observe Christianity’s success and Islam’s more rapid success over a shorter period of time in infecting people’s psyches. Both their success as well as this differential may be largely explainable by their theodicies — i.e., by their afterlife solutions to the disenchanting problem of indiscriminate rewards and suffering. The more striking success of Islam may be explained, in part, by its greater emphasis on rewards and punishments in an afterlife. One way to test the power of this type of theodicy to overcome reality-based disenchantments would be to examine the emphasis on the afterlife in different strains of Christianity and see which strains have had the most marked success in the endless competition between religious meme systems. My bet is that, on average, those branches of Christianity that harp on rewards and punishments in the afterlife the most would show the most and fastest growth.

No More Trivializing God!

The Rev. Michael Dowd

August 24, 2005

Do you believe in life?

Well, do you?

This is an absurd question, yes? Of course! It simply doesn’t matter whether we “believe in” life or not. Life is all around us, and in us. We’re part of it. Life is, period. What we say about life, however, is another story. If I say, “Life is wonderful,” or “Life’s a bitch,” or “Life’s a jungle,” you may or may not believe me, depending on your own experience and the stories you’ve heard from others. What we say about life — its nature, its essence, its purpose, its patterns — along with the metaphors and analogies we choose to describe it, are all open for discussion and debate. But the reality of life is indisputable.

This is exactly the way that God can be understood, and is understood from the perspective of The Great Story — that is, from the perspective of those who see the science-based history of cosmos, Earth, life, and humanity in a sacred, meaningful way. And this is precisely why the question, “Do you believe in God?”, is a non-starter.

* * *

Whatever earlier cultures may or may not have meant when they used the word “God” is not the issue here. Today, any understanding of God that does not at least mean “Ultimate Reality,” or “The Whole of Reality,” or “Reality as a Whole, measurable and non-measurable,” is a trivialized, impotent, and inconsequential notion of the divine.

There are, of course, other ways to speak about the whole of reality, but if “God” is not a legitimate proper name for that which transcends yet includes all other realities, then what is?

This understanding of God makes questions like, “Do you believe or not believe in God?” moot. Like life, reality simply is — no matter what one’s beliefs. What we say about reality, however, the stories and beliefs we hold about its nature, purposes, direction, and so forth, are wide open for discussion and debate. But that there is such a thing as “Reality as a Whole, measurable and non-measurable,” and that “God” is a legitimate, proper name for this Ultimate Reality: surely, these assertions are undeniable.

In fact, it could be argued that this way of understanding the divine is, in our day and age, the only understanding of God worthy of the name. How so? Because this God so clearly trumps all other gods! Whatever any person or tradition might say or think about God, the undeniable fact is: Reality Rules (to use more traditional language, “Reality is Lord)!”That which is fundamentally and ultimately Real always has the final word. Everything bows to it, with no exceptions.

* * *

Supernatural, otherworldly images and concepts of the divine notwithstanding, when “God” is understood foundationally as a sacred, proper name for “The Whole of Reality, measurable and non-measurable,” everything shifts: Theists, atheists, agnostics, pantheists, and panentheists can recognize common ground and move beyond the quagmire of old disputes. When “God” is understood as certainly no less than the Whole of Reality, new possibilities open for ways of thinking about Intelligence and Creativity that can go a long way toward ending the war between evolutionists and those who espouse “Intelligent Design.”

Does “Reality as a Whole” exhibit, or evidence, intelligence and creativity? Of course!This is one of the most significant scientific discoveries (revelations) of the last few hundred years, and one that simply couldn’t have been known (revealed) prior to telescopes, microscopes, and computers. Subatomic particles within atoms within molecules within cells within organisms within societies within planets and galaxies and so forth, like nesting dolls:Each level expresses its own unique form of intelligence and creativity. Stars create most of the atoms in the periodic table of elements. The Sun and Earth together created oceans and forests, dragonflies and dancers. Atoms bonded in partnership, such as hydrogen and oxygen, create water.

“God,” then is a proper name, a sacred name, for “that Ultimate Intelligence and Creativity which transcends and includes all other forms of intelligence and creativity.” God is the only Reality that is not a subset of some larger, more comprehensive reality.

This way of thinking sheds new light on traditional understandings of God’s immanence and transcendence. As the largest “nesting doll,” God — i.e., Reality as a Whole, measurable and non-measurable — embraces, includes, and is revealed throughout the entire cosmos and in all of life (is immanent and omnipresent). God is the great “I AM” of existence. Yet as the source and end of everything, God (the Whole of Reality) is also more than the material world (God is transcendent), and is revealed in what has been called the “quantum vacuum state,” “Implicate Order,” “Metaverse” and “Akashic Field,” among other things.

“Intelligent Creativity” is perhaps a more accurate and useful way of speaking about the nature of emergent complexity than is “Intelligent Design.” Consider: there is no inherent conflict between “Intelligent Creativity” and a mainstream understanding of biological, cultural, planetary, and cosmic evolution. As well, the phrase “Intelligent Creativity” doesn’t imply, as “Intelligent Design” does, a mechanistic understanding of the universe — that is, a presumption that the creativity at work in the cosmos necessarily stands outside the creation, in the way that, say, a clockmaker or engineer is quite distinct from the product each builds or invents. Although the metaphor of a mechanistic universe helped birth the scientific revolution and served ably during through the prime of the industrial revolution, scientists working today and in virtually all disciplines have moved beyond the constraints of a mechanistic worldview. Emergent evolution, self-organization, complexity sciences: these terms exemplify the shift from a mechanistic to a nestedly creative worldview.

* * *

Scientists speak of the universe unfolding according to natural law and species evolving by adapting to selection pressures within the environment.Theologians speak of the cosmos and all living creatures as coming into being as a result of God’s will and God’s grace. Only now can we begin to appreciate that these are different ways of speaking about the same process. To argue whether it was God, natural selection, or the self-organizing dynamics of emergent complexity that brought everything into existence is like debating whether it was me, my fingers moving on the keyboard, or the electrical synapses of my nervous system that produced this sentence.

Of course, this way of understanding the divine begs the question: Does this “God” evoke humility, love, trust, adoration, reverence, or commitment? Is this a “God” anyone would want to worship, pray to, or devote one’s life to serving?

Of course!

If we wish to have a meaningful relationship with “The Whole of Reality” (both that which we can see and measure and that which we cannot), it is natural to use personal analogies to describe the nature of this Ultimacy. The Creator, Mother, Father, King, the Lord God Almighty, The Triune God, Holy Wisdom, the Messiah, Buddha nature, Brahman, the Tao, Allah, Great Spirit, the Rock of Our Salvation, The All Nourishing Abyss, the Akashic Field: these are but a few of the countless images and metaphors used by people of different cultures and times to describe the nature of “Reality as a Whole” and our relationship to it. All such attempts to capture the essence of The Whole are legitimate. Most are helpful, and all are limited. Such are the deficiencies of human language.

Spiritual practices that have served many and have stood the test of time, as well as contemporary psychological research, have this in common: They suggest, at their core, that the peace that passes all understanding, recovery from addiction, salvation from sin, ongoing transformation, personal empowerment, enlightenment, dwelling in kingdom of heaven, experiencing oneness with God — each of these can be found right here (and nowhere else!).How? Simply, get that you are part of The Whole, live with integrity, take responsibility for your life and your evolutionary legacy, listen to your heart to discern God’s guidance, and love the Whole of Reality with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.

Prayer, from this perspective, is truly an intimate process, and one that even an atheist might embrace. Prayer is no longer the act of petitioning a far-off Supernatural Being to miraculously intervene in the world according to my desires or wishes. With an understanding of “God” as a proper name for Reality as a Whole, prayer can now be understood analogously as a cell in a body communicating (or in deep communion) with the larger body of which it is part.

* * *

There is a profound difference between “believing in a personal God” and knowing God intimately, that is, relating to Reality personally.“Believing in” God — that is, giving mental assent to the existence of a Supernatural Being — may or may not make a difference. Relating to Reality personally, that is, trusting that you are loved and accepted just as you are and that everything real in your life can be seen a gift and blessing in disguise, will always transform your life.

* * *

To sum up: (1) Because the entire universe is evolving and we’re part of the process, and (2) because “God” cannot possibly be less than a proper name for “Reality as a Whole, measurable and non-measurable,” then (to use traditional language) “knowing, loving, and serving God” really is our way into the future! It really is our destiny as a species.

How does one “know, love, and serve God” in an evolutionary context?

Personally, it means that nothing is more important than fulfilling your evolutionary mission! By listening, noticing what’s real within and without, and pursuing the path where your own great joy and the world’s evolutionary needs intersect, you truly glorify God; that is, you bless The Whole.

Collectively, as a species, “knowing, loving, and serving God” in an evolutionary context means, at the very least, re-organizing ourselves globally, nationally, regionally, and locally so that there are real and effective incentives for doing the right (just, ecological, evolutionarily beneficial) thing and equally effective disincentives against lying, cheating, dominating, polluting, or otherwise doing the wrong, or evolutionary harmful, thing. Humanity will realize its potential by evolving structures of governance at all levels that align the natural self-interest of individuals and groups with the wellbeing of the whole — that is, the whole of humanity as well as the larger body of life of which we are part.

Practically, this means putting in place laws, taxes, and moral incentives that ensure that individuals, corporations, and nation-states benefit when they benefit the Whole and are harmed when they harm the Whole. And the more they benefit or harm the whole, the more they benefit or are harmed, in turn.This process of aligning self-interest with the common good is the way evolution has brought forth (i.e., the way that God has created through time) increasingly complex, interdependent systems.And if we humans are to continue the process, this same pattern of whole-and-part is surely how we will do so in the decades to come.

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