The Urge to Believe in God

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The Urge to Believe in God

Postby Dhammakid » Wed Jun 30, 2010 3:46 am

Hey folks,
Hope all is well.

So, at least once a month pretty much every month, I find myself, for one reason or another, entertaining the idea of the existence of a supreme creator of the universe - a god, if you will. I grew up devout Christian and even wanted to be a pastor of my own church for a while, so it's not suprising that I may still have a lot of work to do to get this urge out of me.

The funny thing is, though, that the urge doesn't last long. A couple times per year I tell myself that maybe I'll go back to Sikh practice, or maybe some form of hippy new age theism. It only lasts a few days though, and all of the patently irrational and just plain ridiculous facts discounting belief in god snap me back into reality again. I can't really see myself going permanently back to theism in the future, but I can see myself struggling with this back-and-forth for a while longer.

Does the Buddha say anything about the urge to believe in a supreme being? I know the story of Great Brahma's delusion, but is there any indication that belief in god may be a part of the mass of suffering the Buddha teaches? Do human beings have a natural (i.e. delusion-based) tendency towards believing in a higher power?

Thank in advance for your input.

:anjali:
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jun 30, 2010 4:13 am

Dhammakid wrote:Do human beings have a natural (i.e. delusion-based) tendency towards believing in a higher power?

Hi, Dhammakid,
I won't tackle your other questions - just this last one.
A lot of people have said that people do "have a natural tendency towards believing in a higher power."
Atheists and Buddhists tend to say, as you did, that it is delusion-based.
Theists tend to take it as a proof of the existence of God, as in, "We all naturally believe it so it must be true," which is about as circular as an argument can get.
Some psychologists, especially evolutionary psychologists, argue that it is an extension of the child-parent relationship: that the ‘innate’ respect for teachers’ and parents’ authority which underpins learning of survival skills has expanded from its evolutionary origins and transferred to respect for religious teachers and an imaginary parent-figure. Extending this line of thought reveals one of its drawbacks: God or the priest as father-analogue puts us perpetually in the role of child, unable to make decisions of our own and therefore to take responsibility for our own actions. "Just do what I say and you will be all right," may be comforting but it denies us permission to think while it gives us a cop-out. I would rather be an adult.

However, if you experience recurrent impulses towards theism, you now have one explanation (among many possible explanations, I've got to say) which may help you understand yourself a bit better and worry a bit less. I hope it helps. :smile:
:namaste:
Kim

(Edit - fixed typo)
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby Ben » Wed Jun 30, 2010 4:49 am

Hi Dhammakid

I think I might have something that might scare the b'jesus (belief in jesus or any othr creator being) right out of you. I'm just trying to find it - its in one of Ledi Sayadaw's publications.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:09 am

Ben wrote:Hi Dhammakid

I think I might have something that might scare the b'jesus (belief in jesus or any othr creator being) right out of you. I'm just trying to find it - its in one of Ledi Sayadaw's publications.
kind regards


If your Tassy Devil doesn't scare the b'jesus out of him first.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:13 am

If you want to believe in God then believe in him, just observe what happens, does it give rise to freedom from suffering or does it just suppress suffering? does it create more problems than it solves? how does belief feel when compared with the feeling of not knowing and being ok with that?
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:15 am

"The assumption that a God is the cause (of the world, etc.) is based on the false belief in the eternal self (atman, i.e. permanent spiritual substance, essence or personality); but that belief has to be abandoned, if one has clearly understood that everything is impermanent and subject to suffering." - Abhidharmakosha 5, 8 vol IV, p 19
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby pilgrim » Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:42 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Atheists and Buddhists tend to say, as you did, that it is delusion-based.
Theists tend to take it as a proof of the existence of God, as in, "We all naturally believe it so it must be true," which is
Kim

(Edit - fixed typo)

I don't think it is a natural but a conditioned or cultural belief. I was raised Buddhist and so are my children and our natural tendency is to find the belief in an omnipresent, all powerful God to be ridiculous.
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby Shonin » Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:53 am

pilgrim wrote:I don't think it is a natural but a conditioned or cultural belief. I was raised Buddhist and so are my children and our natural tendency is to find the belief in an omnipresent, all powerful God to be ridiculous.


It's a bit of both I think. The notion of a monotheistic, omnipotent creator God is something that evolved culturally around 2-4000 years ago in the Middle East and Egypt and it spread from there. However the tendency to believe in gods and spirits (eg. Animism) has been pretty much a universal feature of human life in all ages. We are predisposed to personify things - to think about and relate to things as if they were persons when they are not. All religions are a cultural manifestation of this tendency.

We have 'social brains'. We feel angry at objects, grateful to the universe and we see faces in clouds.
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby Ben » Wed Jun 30, 2010 6:11 am

unfortunately, Im having some technical problems with my promise of scaring b'jesus.
In the interim I'll do as Goofaholix suggests and use my avatar.

Here's what you should do...
Download link for Ledi Sayadaw's Manual of Buddhism: http://dhammadownload.com/File-Library/ ... ddhism.pdf
Go to p. 123 (or p.147 on the pdf page counter) and read from there. It goes over several pages and there is a detailed exposition of the refutuation of the issaranimmana-hetu view in the following pages. Its worth a read - as is anything by Ledi Sayadaw.
kind regards

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby Zom » Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:10 am

If beings experience pleasure & pain based on the creative act of a supreme god, then obviously the Tathagata has been created by an excellent supreme god, which is why he now feels such pleasure free from fermentation.

If beings experience pleasure & pain based on the creative act of a supreme god Tathagata deserves praise. Even if not, he still deserves praise.


(MN 101)

:bow: :bow: :bow:

From: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby OcTavO » Wed Jun 30, 2010 1:26 pm

Incidentally, there was an interesting episode of "Morgan Freeman's Through the Wormhole" on the science channel the other day, where a neuroscientist (I forget which institute) has created a helmet which focuses a weak magnetic field on a particular area of the temporal lobe. When the helmet is turned on the subjects experienced, well, basically a closeness to the divine. What makes it even more interesting is that by altering the field he can also create sensations of hell/flames etc.
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Jun 30, 2010 6:54 pm

There maybe a 'middle ground' on this as well. In one sutta (Cant find it now) the Buddha speaks of maha-brahma who mistakenly thinks he is the creator god because he is the first to appear when a new universe comes into being.
With Metta

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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby acinteyyo » Wed Jun 30, 2010 6:57 pm

Hi Dhammakid,

I think it's not a big problem. Don't pay it much attention. In my eyes the urge to believe in self is much more serious. You should think about that!

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.
Pathabyā ekarajjena, saggassa gamanena vā sabbalokādhipaccena, sotāpattiphalaṃ varaṃ. (Dhp 178)
Sole dominion over the earth, going to heaven or lordship over all worlds: the fruit of stream-entry excels them.

:anjali:
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby Goedert » Wed Jun 30, 2010 7:16 pm

Maybe the right word for describing that feeling is urge to understand things from wisdom it self and direct knowing.

It is easier to put this responsability in God so actually we put the effort for the other being to hep us, so it is more "childish action".

You will probabily be dead and this questions will not be answered to you. This is a fact, try to put effort by yourself practing the dhamma or any thing you believe is right to put your spiritual faculties in it.

Best wishes to you.
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby Shonin » Wed Jun 30, 2010 7:25 pm

rowyourboat wrote:There maybe a 'middle ground' on this as well. In one sutta (Cant find it now) the Buddha speaks of maha-brahma who mistakenly thinks he is the creator god because he is the first to appear when a new universe comes into being.


Interestingly this is remarkably close to the Gnostic view of Yahweh.
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby Wind » Fri Jul 02, 2010 9:19 pm

This post by Poto covers how the Buddha explain the notion of a Creator God came to be and why mankind held this belief:

viewtopic.php?f=12&t=4543#p69492


I think the urge to believe in God is just a reflection of the urge to know where we came from. Subconsciously you knew there is more to this very existence, you were somewhere else before you were born but had forgotten. Even though you lost your memories of past existence, the instinct or gut feeling that you came from somewhere remains. Believing in God offer only a temporarily solution to the problem but leave some doubts. The only way to cut through doubt, to real Knowledge, to final release is the noble way.
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby fijiNut » Sun Jul 04, 2010 2:37 am

Hi Dhammakid,

Sometimes an urge is just that, a feeling or wave of emotion that is not constant with not much substance.

Since you are familiar with the sutta regarding the delusion of Maha-Brahma: (Digna Nikaya 1 , http://web.ukonline.co.uk/theravada/brahma1.htm para.39-44), , there seems to be two implications:
1)even the 'Maha'-Brahma is subject to the laws of kamma and is not beyond it.
2) taking refuge in the 'Creator' is of no use since She/He cannot absolve your 'sins'/'kamma'

Moreover if one reflects carefully what it really means when one takes refuge in the Triple Gem of Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, one reflects that there is a Path which an Enlightened being found that take us beyond kamma - the Deathless, and those who practiced the similar Path also got similar results.

As a side note, why worship the Brahma? Doesn't one embody the qualities of Brahma when one practices loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity (all within the framework of Dhamma practice)

Wishing you all the best in your search,
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Jul 04, 2010 3:30 am

this is just anatta, do you want these thoughts or urges? who is it that puts them in your head? they come and they go, this is anicca and the worry they cause you; dukkha.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby andrew » Thu Jul 08, 2010 12:10 am

Hi Dhammakid,
I know where you are coming from. Sometimes I recall the sense of feeling like a part of something vast, eternal and infinite - like how I felt when involved in Hinduism. (And previously, Christianity, though I never really embraced that).

And yet, as you mentioned, that feeling comes and goes, and so how real or substantial is it really? Just another dream of this dreamer.

I find it useful to sort of 'redirect' that longing (it still exists as 'echoes' or 'ripples' somewhere in my heart-mind) to the Dhamma. I sometimes reflect / meditate upon how the Buddhas have always lived, their customs and ways etc, the eternal truths such as impermanence, and that 'eternal law' mentioned in the Dhammapada ('hatreds never cease by hatred; by love alone they cease'). It is just my attempt to skilfully deal with my own theistic tendency, not denouncing myself for it, but redirecting it. Cos like yourself, when I really question within my heart, I honestly come back to the conclusion that if there really WAS a god 'out there' (or 'in here') that he/she/it would not insist that we cling to and accept words written and passed down by men, above the insight of our own hearts. So I am always for walking away from fundamentalist tendencies, even in the Buddha way, as even Buddha told us not to just accept what he said but to test it out. (this has turned into a personal rant, but still, I hope that something here was helpful!)

andrew. :)
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Re: The Urge to Believe in God

Postby Majjhima Patipada » Sat Jul 17, 2010 2:17 am

It seems that the Buddha realized that the urge to believe in God is in part a result of our search for comfort and security, something stable that we can hold on to, a form of ego-clinging. We hope for something eternal and absolute, unchanging and infinite, something permanent, and so we create God to fulfill this hope. Belief in God appears to contradict the Buddha's teachings on anatta and anicca.

"Two ideas are psychologically deep-rooted in man: self-protection and self-preservation. For self-protection man has created God, on whom he depends for his own protection, safety and security, just as a child depends on its parent. For self-preservation man has conceived the idea of an immortal Soul or Atman, which will live eternally. In his ignorance, weakness, fear, and desire, man needs these two things to console himself. Hence he clings to them deeply and fanatically" (Rahula 51).

Rahula, Walpola. What the Buddha Taught. New York: Random House, Inc., 1959, 1974.
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