I’ve been thinking a lot about “communication” – how I can do it better; how I can recognize true communication from “fake” – and this quote from Science and Health (by Mary Baker Eddy) has been helpful to me: “The intercommunication is always from God to His idea, man.” I’m trying to know that nothing can stop God’s communication (the only real communication) to us; that none of us is outside the reach of God’s communication; and that we’re all – each and every beautiful one of us – receptive to Truth.
“Come now, and let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18) “Fake news” isn’t just the news we don’t happen to like, and “facts” aren’t just opinions that we happen to agree with. I know that all of us, as the reflections of Mind and Truth, have the ability to reason and recognize the false from the true. And no one individual is closer to Truth than anyone else.
Not even me. 🙂
We should remember that the world is wide; that there are a thousand million different human wills, opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person has a different history, constitution, culture, character, from all the rest; that human life is the work, the play, the ceaseless action and reaction upon each other of these different atoms. Then, we should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities…
– Mary Baker Eddy (Miscellaneous Writings)
I wonder if I might make a few suggestions for conversing with others about religion on a discussion board? I have had some experience with this, and I’d like to share some of what I’ve observed and learned.
The most important thing to know, I think, is that if you ever encounter me on a discussion forum I am always, always right. And if you disagree with me about this you are wrong.
Once we have established that basic and most fundamental of all facts, we can move on to other stuff:
- Might I suggest that we never, ever, ever presume to know what other people think, feel, and believe just because they identify themselves as atheist, theist, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, pagan, Christian Scientist, or as a member of any other ideology.
- Generalizations, stereotypes, and lumping whole groups of people together as one “type” are not helpful when trying to understand someone else’s perspective.
- Don’t tell other people what they think. Let them tell you.
- Although pomposity cracks me up, not everyone shares the same reaction as me to puffed-up know-it-allness. Humility is a beautiful thing. Let’s be willing to laugh at our own nonsense before we laugh at someone else’s.
- Remember that we’re all human – we all have our own flaws and foibles – none of us is perfect here. Might I suggest that we correct our own flaws before we start trying to correct someone else’s?
- Give each other grace.
When Christians are talking with atheists –
- Do not assume all atheists think, feel, and believe exactly alike – the only thing, really, that all atheists have in common is the conviction that there is no god.
- Do not assume atheists are unfamiliar with religious texts. Some of them are very familiar with religious texts, and, in fact, that is the reason some of them want nothing to do with religion.
- Think about using quotes from the Bible sparingly. Remember that not everyone believes the Bible in the same way that you do, and quoting from it to prove that you’re right probably isn’t going to have the effect you’re looking for.
- Do not assume that atheists have no sense of ethics, no humanity, or no “moral code” simply because they do not believe in a god. Belief in a god is not necessary to know right from wrong, or to be a kind and compassionate person.
- Do not end disagreements with atheists by condescendingly telling them that you will “pray” for them.
When atheists are talking to theists –
- Do not assume that all theists think, believe, and feel exactly the same about everything.
- Do not assume all theists have the same definition for “God”.
- Do not assume every theist is a Christian. There are, among others, theists who are Muslim, Jewish, pagan, and non-religious. (Contrariwise, not every religious person is theistic – some religions, such as Buddhism and Universalist-Unitarianism, do not include a belief in a god.)
- Do not assume all theists are superstitious scaredy cats, hoping to God there is an after-life. For some theists a belief in God follows a logical thought process, and doesn’t necessarily lead to belief in an after-life.
When atheists are talking to Christians –
- Do not assume all Christians think, feel, and believe exactly the same – the only thing, really, that all Christians have in common is the belief that Jesus was the Christ.
- Do not assume all Christians have the same definition for “God”.
- Do not assume all Christians interpret the Scriptures literally.
- Do not assume all Christians belong to the same political party and hold the same political ideology.
- Don’t assume that when you’re talking with a Christian, you’re talking to someone lacking in logic, intelligence, or education. This kind of prejudice tends to lead to a really speedy end of civil discourse.
- Try to quote only sparingly from The God Delusion and God is Not Great, and avoid the over-use of Latin and terms like “strawman” and “Nirvana fallacy”. (Writing over-much in Latin and over-using or mis-using terms like “strawman” does not so much make you look intelligent as kind of silly.) Just as some Christians are sometimes prone to over-quote from the Bible, some atheists are sometimes prone to over-quote Hitchens and Dawkins. I think we all value a nicely–stated original thought much more than a canned response, don’t you?
When non-Humoristians are talking to Humoristians –
- Don’t assume all Humoristians think, feel, and believe exactly the same about everything. Pretty much the only thing Humoristians have in common is the ability to laugh at themselves and the absurdity of life.
- The only effect pomposity, stodginess, self-righteous indignation, and sermonizing are going to have on a Humoristian is to get her laughing so hard she’ll have tears pouring down her face. Unless that is the effect you’re going for, don’t waste your time with it.
When non-Unitarian-Universalists are talking to Unitarian-Universalists –
- Don’t assume all Unitarian-Universalists think, feel, and believe exactly the same about everything… because… I mean… these are Unitarian-Universalists, for crying out loud! Trying to herd U-U members into one ideology would be like trying to herd cats.
- Don’t waste your time trying to get U-U folks to get defensive about their religious beliefs. It ain’t going to happen. Although you might see the U-U coming to the defense of social justice and freedom, you are not going to see them getting defensive about their religious beliefs because they don’t have any to defend, really. So you can give THAT whole plot up right now.
When non-Christian Scientists are talking to Christian Scientists –
- Don’t assume all Christian Scientists think, feel, and believe exactly the same about everything.
- Don’t assume that because you were raised in another Christian denomination you are an expert on Christian Science. There is a vast difference between fundamentalist Christianity, for instance, and Christian Science – as many fundamentalist Christians would be the first to point out.
- Do not assume that because you are the child of Christian Scientists you are an expert on Christian Science. (I am the daughter of a geologist, but I would not consider myself an expert on geology.)
- Don’t assume because you read a Wikipedia article on Christian Science, or because someone once told you that they’d heard from someone else something about Christian Science, you are an expert on Christian Science. (I have actually been told by non-Christian Scientists to refer to Wikipedia to better find out what I believe as a Christian Scientist. I have spent more than 50 years practicing this way of life, have led the services at my church, and written books about my experience with Christian Science. Do not tell me to go to Wikipedia to find out more about what I believe. Sheesh.)
- The “Christian Scientists are neither Christian, nor scientists” thing has gotten pretty old and is neither original nor helpful in maintaining thoughtful discourse. Let it go.
- Do not assume all Christian Scientists hold the same political or social beliefs. Christian Scientists are a pretty diverse group of people – there are Christian Scientists who are Democrats, Christian Scientists who are Republicans, Christian Scientists who are liberal-progressives and Christian Scientists who are conservatives. Unlike some other religious institutions there is nobody in the Christian Science church who tells Christian Scientists how to vote. That is left up to individual conscience.
- Along the same lines, recognize that private Christian Science schools and institutions – and the people who are part of them – are not necessarily representative of the views and experience of every individual who is practicing Christian Science.
- Do not assume that because you know one Christian Scientist you know them all.
- Do not assume that Christian Scientists who go to doctors are not “real” Christian Scientists. For some Christian Scientists, Christian Science is neither a religion nor an alternative health care system, it is a way of life – a way of looking at the world that has brought them healing and a lot of good.
When Christian Scientists are talking to non-Christian Scientists
- Avoid, if you can, using phrases like “working on a problem” or “the belief of” – most people are not going to understand what the heck you are talking about.
- Avoid, if you can, using absolutes. None of us have ascended, yet. Christian Scientists are still dealing with the same challenges as every other human being. Recognizing the common human experience we share with the rest of mankind is not a bad thing.
- It’s alright to show natural human feeling – to cry, laugh, grieve. These are the feelings that connect us to the rest of humankind. Embrace them. Don’t be afraid to bring human emotion into your conversations with others. Christian Scientists are not automatons.
- Do not talk down to others. Being a Christian Scientist doesn’t make you any better, wiser, or more spiritually-minded than anyone else.
- Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself now and then, and don’t be afraid to let others laugh at you, too. Recognize that to people unfamiliar with Christian Science some of the teachings found in Christian Science might seem completely ludicrous. And that’s okay.
I guess that’s pretty much all I have to say about that.
(excerpt from The Madcap Christian Scientist: All Things New)
What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord god, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine… – Ezekiel 18: 2-4
The transmission of disease or of certain idiosyncrasies of mortal mind would be impossible if this great fact of being were learned, – namely, that nothing inharmonious can enter being, for Life is God. Heredity is a prolific subject for mortal belief to pin theories upon; but if we learn that nothing is real but the right, we shall have no dangerous inheritances… – Mary Baker Eddy
I realized today that even in our own families there are things we skirt around in conversation. The things it’s okay to talk about are trips we’ve taken, hikes we’ve hiked, how much money is in the savings, what books we’re reading, and what movies we’ve seen. The men in the family bond over talk of sports and car up-keep, and the women bond over talk of politics and flowers and pets. And I mean in no way to belittle any of those conversations – they are legitimate, they have a place, they bring us together. But there are other conversations that we skip around, things that would be helpful to say, and that maybe should be said – but we’re afraid might bring confrontation or discomfort, or make someone feel hurt or attacked. And so we don’t go there.
Today as I sat at breakfast with my oldest son and my husband – as they talked sports and car up-keep – I realized I was standing at a sort of verbal crossroads – I could go the safe direction and throw in my two cents about the Seahawks and Pete Carroll, and the price of petrol, or I could go that other direction and maybe hear something that would hurt, but might be helpful to me.
I took a deep breath, and plunged towards the scary path. I’m not going to tell you what I asked, or what was answered, because I do not want to. But because I went down the scary path, I had an epiphany this morning.
Speaking from a materially-genetic, hereditary standpoint, I guess you could say that I’ve inherited two very different natures from my very different parents. Mom is a wise, nurturing, loving, compassionate empath –a defender of the down-trodden, and champion for truth, justice, and equality. She is Frodo Baggins in a Superman cape – a homebody without ego or the need for adventure, although she has had her share of it. Dad is… Dad is a little more complicated. He’s an explorer, an adventurer, a Renaissance man – artist, mountain-climber, geologist, hydrologist, ski instructor, cartographer, author. He’s always up to something. Last summer, at the age of 95, he finished a mural he’d painted on the side of their shed – and this mural covered a space that was 12 feet high – so I’m guessing there was some ladder-climbing involved. He’s traveled to six of the earth’s continents, hob-nobbed with politicians and celebrities, and lived a most unusual life. There are certain traits he possesses that have allowed him to lead this unusual life.
And, speaking from a materially-genetic standpoint, I might seem to be a weird combo of these two antipodal individuals. Sometimes these two natures seem to be at odds in myself. I can recognize the good stuff I seem to have inherited – the kindness and empathy that are qualities of Mom; the need to explore, discover, and create that are qualities of Dad. And I can recognize the other stuff – the not-so-good stuff – I seem to have inherited, too.
A lot of people have labeled me “sweet.” Sweet is good. I kind of wish I was wholly that person. But I am not. People are sometimes surprised, and disappointed, when they realize at some point that “sweet” is just a part of my human personality. My human personality has also been known to be impatient, angry, self-righteously indignant, opportunistic, cranky, and reactive. There have been battles with ego. The human personality is not always “nice.”
Does the bad of the human personality totally negate the good? Does the cranky negate the sweet?
Geeze. I really hope not.
So a couple things:
Regarding genetics – I don’t think I ever fully recognized that I even had this belief until today. But this morning my belief in heredity was exposed. I saw that I had allowed it to make a claim on me – had, without being aware I was doing this, allowed genetics to be an explanation, and maybe an excuse, for being who I am. I had made it some kind of law that I had to follow. And, as Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the textbook for Christian Science, “Heredity is not a law.” It never was a law, and I never really was thrall to it.
Regarding the nature of man – In reality, we are all the children of God – the image and likeness of Love – and all we can inherit are the qualities of Love. There’s nothing Love, God, can create which could be in any way unlike Love. That’s the truth about all of us – Mom, Dad, me, and you, too. In reality, there IS no dual nature of man.
I recently changed my “author’s bio” on Amazon – removed the part about my up-bringing and how I was raised . I am responsible for my own behaviors at this point. Genetics is a two-headed coin – if you accept the heads of it, you also have to accept the tails. And I don’t wanna. I’m not dependent on inherited glories. I don’t need to accept inherited pains, either. I am my own self. And the only real inheritance I have comes from my Father-Mother God.
“…in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength…” – Isaiah 30:15
And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still, And there was a great calm. – Mark 4: 39
Evening. Mistiness of mortal though; weariness of mortal mind; obscured views; peace and rest. – from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy
I went for a walk this evening. When I left the house, darkness was descending, but hadn’t completely fallen, yet. I’ve found that there is often a calm and quiet at that time of the day. Most people are safely ensconced in their homes, either making dinner or eating it, and I usually don’t run into anyone else on my evening walks. I have my rural neighborhood to myself, and there is usually peace.
But tonight I didn’t feel the peace right away. As I started my walk, I found myself replaying the events of the day. It had been a long one. The day had been filled with a lot of busy-ness, decisions, human opinion, and human dialogue. In my head, I played over again the conversations, decisions, and opinions, and tried to determine my own place in all of it. I probably could have spent my entire walk playing and replaying the events of the day, but something happened – I’m not sure what, exactly – that made the conversation in my head suddenly cease, and made me stop in my tracks. And when I stopped a phrase from the Bible came to me: “Peace, be still…”
The phrase from the Bible was followed by the reassuring words from an old hymn: “All will be well.” Words from God, I thought, and then kind of mentally rolled my eyes at myself. No, I corrected myself, it’s just me talking to myself again, wanting to believe all will be well, and then telling myself it’s God talking to me. Yeah… but , I argued, isn’t any thought that brings me peace or reassurance or hope a message from Love, God? If God is just another name for Love, Truth, and Life, as Mary Baker Eddy says in the Christian Science textbook, then isn’t any thought that comes from Love, Truth, and Life a message from God? Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The intercommunication is always from God to His idea, man.” And, if she’s right about this, wouldn’t that mean that the only true communication, the only real communication, the only communication that ever matters, is the communication that comes from Love, Truth, and Life?
Peace, be still.
I stopped arguing with myself, and listened. The frogs were croaking a song in the field next to me. A breeze rustled the branches overhead. A flock of ducks took off from the pond on the other side of the road, and I could hear their wings flapping. The silhouette of an owl launching itself from a tree caught my vision. And I could smell the faint scent of spring blossoms in the air. And it occurred to me that maybe all these things were examples of God communicating to me. In fact, maybe Love and Life are continually sending me messages of peace and hope, and I just need to stop and listen.
All will be well, the voice came again. There may be challenges ahead. There may be storms and confusion, sorrow and pain – but – look at me – keep your eyes on me – all will be well. Okay, I said, nodding my head. I’ll keep my eyes focused on Love. I’ll keep my ears tuned in to Truth. I’ll walk with confidence through the days ahead. All will be well. All, all is well.
By the time I’d finished my conversation with myself, it was dark. In a few minutes I would be back home, the phone would ring – and I would discover that the day’s busy-ness, conversation, and human opinions were not yet finished with me. But I’d gained something on my evening’s walk – I had something now that I hadn’t had when I’d walked out the door forty minutes before. I had peace.
We expect a bright tomorrow,
All will be well;
Faith can sing through days of sorrow,
All must be well;
While His truth we are applying,
And upon His love relying,
God is every need supplying,
All, all is well. – Mary Peters