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July, 2004

This is a lot like a sermon, but, hey, we all can use one
By Harry Holdorph

First, it's all right to talk about God. Atheists don't have the right to take the word 'God' off our money, or out of the pledge. Why? because the acknowledgment of something bigger than ourselves is the basis of our existence. It's our hook, our connection. We're all sunflowers, meant to turn toward, face, pay allegiance to, express deference to, worship, God. We can't force people to face God, but no one can force us not to. It's OK to yell 'God' in a crowded theater.

There are three realms of worship: universal, human, and personal.

We ought to respect the God in everything because God is composed of all that is. If we acted on this, many of the world's problems would be solved. If enough of us don't, we could probably destroy the earth.

This topic is full of shades of gray. Should we halt development to protect the snail darter? Should we 'Wendell Berry' it and return to a completely organic farm-based, computer-less nineteenth century world? Should we stop using oil altogether, or not watch any TV? How much ocean and river warming should be allowed to cool power plants? How much air pollution should be allowable?

Along with the gray, there are some definites: we shouldn't treat oceans as perfect places to dump waste, such as thousands of barrels of low level radioactive waste forty miles out from the Golden Gate; or sinking retired nuclear submarines wherever. We're painfully learning from other mistakes: spilled PCBs from electrical transformers and forklift hydraulic systems have created thousands of serious ground/water contamination sites. Ditto the long-lasting dioxin in now-banned pesticides. Ditto the CFCs escaping from cooling compressors and Styrofoam coffee cups rising into the upper atmosphere, creating ozone holes. It's obvious the earth ain't big enough to compensate for unlimited Godless human activity.

The second realm of worship is respecting each other. Our God has to be big enough so we can't kill any infidels, because there are none. No crusades, inquisitions, etc. There are some gray areas here also. How far should we go to stop tyrants? Do we educate everyone, or continue with this charade of having the top half of the students get it, while the bottom half never gets it. Shall we kill killers, or imprison them, and for how long? Are we OK with having the world's highest incarceration rate? Can meat-eaters find peace? Do we give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants? Do we provide universal health care? Shall we industrialize the world? Is the world so over-populated that we're secretly hoping for AIDS, wars, and other epidemics to wipe at least half of us out? Are there actually too many of us here to enjoy each other?

The third and most important level of respect is to worship the God which exists within each of us. Self-love forms the basis of all love. Each of us is born in perfection, goes through the hell of immaturity, only to (hopefully) re-emerge into a state of mature perfection. Everyone has within them the source of nearly unlimited power. Everyone has the potential to feel all the time, 24/7, the way you feel when you're watching a really, really good movie, with tears streaming down your face while getting in touch with the best feelings imaginable, holding in your grasp the fulfillment of your each and every endless dream. This is all the indescribable stuff, the reason people go to such effort to keep up their yards, the reason they plant window boxes, the reason women make themselves up, the reason people, no matter how great the pain, fight so hard and so long to stay alive. This is the 'Power of Positive Thinking', the beauty of dogs, Windex, and Easter.

Writing about this inner search for God is quite difficult, because I've got so much work to do. I think most people, including myself, are layered. I'm equipped with a vanity layer, inside of which is a layer of insecurity, inside of which is a really thick and quite healthy layer of self-love. When I keep hearing people praying for 'relief from the bondage of self', I can't help but thinking they're barking up the wrong tree: attacking the love of self is such a cheap shot.

Deepak says in "The Angel Is Near":

"Be not afraid."
Remember that you are loved.
Regard everyone as a child of God - this means everyone.
Appreciate every fiber of creation as holy.
Do not see yourself in the world, but the world in yourself."



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