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Blackberry's avatar

Honest question: What are some of the ways theists think of god when it comes to acting on the universe today?

Asked by Blackberry (29356 points ) October 28th, 2011

I’m pretty sure most (if not all?) take the stance there is a creator of course.

But what about now? Does it play a part in the entire universe? Did it just start the universe and step aside to progress on its own? How about the lives of the organisms in the universe? Is it controlling each of our lives, or is it intervening at certain points? Not at all?

I’m asking Fluther because I know this is where the normal ones are (that’s a compliment).

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

66 Answers

cazzie's avatar

grabs a bowl of popcorn, sits back and watches

JilltheTooth's avatar

Sorry, @Blackberry , this may indeed be an honest Q, and if so I apologize, but your track record would indicate that it would be a mistake to leap in here. I’ve said my piece on other threads about what it means to me to be a deist/theist and have been lumped in with groups that commit genocide and atrocities, called ignorant, stupid, deluded, etc. Think I’ll pass this time, but I will follow the Q, and ask @cazzie to share the popcorn. Hey, @cazzie , it’s chilly out there. Would you like some cocoa?

Blackberry's avatar

I was just curious to know what the generally accepted notion was. I think it’s an interesting question and never checked it out. I understand, though.

cazzie's avatar

Thanks, @JilltheTooth. I have plenty of popcorn to go around. Here you go. hands her a bowl No thanks on the cocoa though. I’ve broken into the sacramental wine.

cazzie's avatar

I’m not a theist, but I figure this: Anyone’s thoughts on this level are pretty personal. Putting them out there to be attacked by the less than holy would be less than prudent. I vow to not be an asshole-atheist and not make fun of other peoples thoughts on this subject.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Why don’t we do something novel and have an adult, level headed discussion about this? I would like to hear other views. I’m not a believer but I do like good discourse on other views.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’d like to know for example does God control things day to day or does he allow us free will to make our own decisions and we deal with the results? Just the theory please.
(As he sticks his head into the lion’s mouth)

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Blackberry:” I was just curious to know what the generally accepted notion was.” Right there is the start of the issue. There is no “generally accepted notion” among theists. Really. On this site alone there have been many many different views expressed, but those are often ignored in favor of someone saying something like “But one must admit it is quite comical to see another human make some claim about virgin births being real, saying we’re all created by a heavenly father, or suggesting the notion that out of this magnificent universe, some primitive humans discovered all of lifes answers for us because they wrote a book.”

Blackberry's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Exactly, I think it’s a valid and logical question. I am curious.

@JilltheTooth That is different, at least to me, because I see religion and god as two separate things. But I still stand by my opinion that religion can’t make claims about things such god and the entire universe without a cogent argument. That is my problem with it.

I’m inquiring only about god.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Interesting that I am the only theist so far here and I’m not talking… :-D @Blackberry, if you and I were sitting alone in a room, drinking coffee and chatting, I might talk to you about this. In a free-for-all environment, however, I’m not willing to go there again. If someone wants to dig up my posts on this topic, fine, otherwise, nope. When the atheists can answer the very questions that led me to believe, I might reconsider my position.

Blackberry's avatar

@JilltheTooth No problem I understand :)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@JilltheTooth That’s a sad comment on our own levels of maturity when we’re hiding behind a keyboard.

lillycoyote's avatar

@JilltheTooth Is right there simply is no “generally accepted notion” among theists as to how god acts in the universe. They cannot all be lumped into a single group that believes one thing.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe : Yes, yes it is. On one of those contentious threads I was likened to “A friend of the Klan” simply because I pointed out to another user that generalizing about Theists is inappropriate. Helps to explain some of my reluctance, here, doesn’t it?

JilltheTooth's avatar

@lillycoyote : Your use of the 3rd person has me asking, are you a theist or no? I’m feeling a bit lonely here…

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@JilltheTooth I watched that thread with a sick feeling. It got pretty ugly in a hurry.

thorninmud's avatar

Not a theist, but I have rubbed elbows and exchanged thoughts with many. Beliefs about the level of involvement of God in the affairs of the universe truly run the gamut from “hands off” to “micromanagement”.

Fundamentalists seem far more likely to see God as intimately involved. Theirs is a God with whom they have a personal relationship, who listens to their prayers and personal supplications, and will cause things to work out for their ultimate benefit. This is the kind of God who gets thanked when the touchdown pass connects.

Many Catholics are more likely to see saints as the ones who intercede in ordinary affairs. Their prayers to God may be more general and formulaic, but if they want a specific outcome in a specific situation, the prayer goes to the appropriate saint (walls of cathedrals in France are dotted with plaques giving thanks to this or that saint for help in passing exams). The spirit realm is a bureaucracy, and you don’t go to the president for a trash collection problem.

Many Jews see God as far more aloof, kind of an absentee landlord.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Just to show how incredibly stupid I can be, I’m going to throw out the theory God would have to allow people free will to make their own decisions or there would be no way for the good to distinguish themselves from the bad.
(now cowering as the arguement about what’s good or bad commences)
(this was before I saw thorninmud’s post)

lillycoyote's avatar

@JilltheTooth I’m somewhere in the deist/theist range, not a Christian or an adherent of any religion. I’m not an atheist though. My beliefs, such as they, are a little idiosyncratic and in flux much of the time and are defined more by what I don’t believe than what I do believe. I belong to a “church” that has only one member. :-)

Blackberry's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I honestly don’t know what to think. It maybe also because I was never the most informed in the whole free will debate.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@lillycoyote : Thanks. That’s kind of how I roll as well.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’m having a little trouble with the idea of God having the ability to intercede in day to day events. There’s a lot of crappy things going on day to day or is that part of the test of the individual?

lillycoyote's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Some people believe that God intercedes in people’s lives, I don’t really know, but I don’t think so. And I really don’t believe God “tests” people. I think things just happen to people. Life is horribly unfair but I don’t think it’s God’s fault. It’s just the way things are. And I find it annoying when people think that when someone survives something horrible that it was somehow God’s will. What about the people that didn’t?

The teenage son of a woman I worked with was in a very bad car accident with two other boys. The boy driving was unhurt, the kid in the front passenger seat was killed and her son, who was in the back, was paralyzed from the waist down. I remember going out for a smoke at work with her and another woman, a Christian, who said “You know, God saved your boy’s life.” My friend didn’t respond and it took everything I could to keep my mouth shut. I absolutely don’t think God works that way, that God hangs around car accidents deciding whose precious child will be uninjured, whose precious child will die and whose precious child will live but be paralyzed from the waist down. I don’t think God works that way, but some people do.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@lillycoyote Yeah, if we don’t have the ability to control events in our life, or at least influence them how do we know what type of person we really are? (There’s a sentence to send gailcalled screaming into the night). We have to have freewill I think.

smilingheart1's avatar

As a theist, thinking of the things we see greatly aggravated in terms of every type of trouble compounded all over the world, closer and closer big issues now even contaminarions of seas, I see the Great Tribulation outskirts in view if we are not already in them

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@smilingheart1 That one went totally over my head. Can you explain it for someone that’s a little ignorant?

thorninmud's avatar

The Bible depicts God in several different degrees of involvement at different periods. There are times when he’s literally escorting the tribes of Israel through the desert and making stones hit the sweet spot on the foreheads of giants, and other times when he turns his back and lets humans stew in their own shit for a good long time. He is depicted as pulling back from involvement in Job’s life so Satan can have his way with him. This is a God who becomes uninvolved primarily in order to impress upon people how much better things are when he’s involved.

In the new testament, Jesus says that not so much as a sparrow can fall to the ground without God noticing. He also says, repeatedly, that whatever one asks for in Jesus’ name will be given. That presents God as very involved. But then the prophesies of Revelation imply that God would let “the nations” run things for awhile until some future divine intercession at Christ’s return.

KatawaGrey's avatar

I am also not going to put my own personal beliefs on display for the reasons that @JilltheTooth has stated. However, I once heard the view of an arguably fundamentalist Christian about how involved God is involved in everyone’s life. He said that God is like a writer and we are the characters and the lives we live are the plot. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but God does and continues to write. I find this view very interesting because, as a writer, I can tell you that while you may be the one putting the words on the paper, the story gets away from you pretty fast and pretty soon, you’re just hanging on for dear life as the story runs away and takes you with it.

Edit to add: I would also like to note that I am not entirely sure of the degree to which god the concept, not the Christian God is involved in anyone’s life, but, truth be told, I am always afraid to say that because then someone will take that as an opportunity to point out that I know nothing and am therefore wrong. The truth is that I am content not knowing. I don’t need to know and I’m okay with that. I have my ideas, opinions, and hypotheses, but no actual certainty on that level. Here ya go, guys, be gentle. /Hands paddle to atheists and bends over./

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@KatawaGrey The writing part is pretty interesting, because I have the same experience when writing. It just goes off on it’s own course.
Also, nice discussion so far guys.I just wish people didn’t feel the need to withhold their thoughts because of the trolls.

wonderingwhy's avatar

@lillycoyote
@thorninmud
@KatawaGrey
and anyone else, of course!

Referring to what you’ve been saying about what I’d collectively refer to as the “nature” of god.

In your experience is a reconciliation of god’s nature intrinsic to the belief? Is the failure of such a reconciliation the (frequent?) impetus for what I’ve heard called a “crisis of faith”?

thorninmud's avatar

@wonderingwhy I think people of faith tend to need some ongoing sense of God as a presence in their lives. When they lose this intuition of God’s presence, that’s the “crisis of faith”. I think of Jesus on the cross crying “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. I also think of Mother Teresa who, for many of her latter years, stopped feeling that presence: ”...as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak”. This began soon after she started working with the poor in Calcutta. She used these adjectives to describe the feeling: “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness” and “torture”.

In my own experience, I tried in my youth to sustain that sense of involvement and presence, but as a young adult I saw it as an illusion that I was creating by my own force of will. Letting it go wasn’t accompanied by a feeling of being abandoned by God, so there was no element of “crisis” for me. It was more that I came to see God as an idea that I had been superimposing on the world all along.

Brian1946's avatar

I think that since pantheists equate their deity with the forces and laws of the universe, they would think that She has always acted and will always act on the universe. ;-)

Blackberry's avatar

@KatawaGrey Please don’t tell us you’re bending over after handing us a paddle. There’s just too much room for interpretation. Lol. Thanks for answering.

Hibernate's avatar

I would like you to be more specific if you can. But trying not to ruin your question [we have a history of doing so… we = both you and me] you to need to know God let us govern ourself and left a free will and we are free to chose/do whatever we feel like doing. Some of us don’t act to what free means because we don’t think it’s appropriate.

P.S. Seems the question will run out of track soon.

Blackberry's avatar

@Hibernate That’s the type of answer I was looking for. Thank you :)

cazzie's avatar

disappointed and throws her popcorn on the floor.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@cazzie LMAO I’m amazed as well.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Wait! I wasn’t done with the popcorn! <pouts>

cazzie's avatar

I gave you your share… wasn’t 10% enough? you should have said…...

Buttonstc's avatar

Ok, I’m having a case of cognitive dissonance here so let me just see if I understand the intent of your Q.

You want to know in detail all the various ways that Theists think of Gods involvement in the universe He created as well as the day to day lives of the people whom he created, does that sum it up?

And this would be in reference to any type of God at all for which you and others have not only consistently claimed does not exist (regardless of whether anyone was even asking you) but have likened to “the Tooth Fairy”, “Leprechauns” and other silly mythical creatures.

Is that the same God that your now so overwhelmingly curious about? The one who doesn’t exist (according to you and others prone to ridicule)?

Just want to be sure I understand the Q?

And you’re expecting answers from those that you and others have claimed to be “willfully ignorant” and unfamiliar with proper knowledge gathering techniques?

I’m really confused as to why you would be seeking info from those whom you and the rest of the vocal cynical atheists regard as being basically too stupid to be reasoned with?

So you can understand my cognitive dissonance and confusion, I assume.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Blackberry's avatar

@Buttonstc Well, as two people pointed out, there is no generally accepted notion, and that is what I initially assumed. I’m fully aware of my supercilious comments, but I really don’t care if people believe in god, it’s the god and religion connection I’m very skeptical of.

I don’t really “know” what it’s like to be very religious or spiritual as an adult, because I came into agnosticism/atheism kind of young, but that doesn’t mean I never wonder about what’s out there. So I was looking for a general speculation of what most theists think it is that’s out there (or around or whatever) and how it may behave. For example, it seems totally plausible that this entity could kind of be everywhere like some force or something. I don’t know, so I asked theists.

I do know that there are atheists that feel anything relating to god at all is ridiculous, but I really don’t feel that way. It is only the god/religion connection that my gripes are with, because that involves a societal institution.

Hibernate's avatar

@Blackberry I was always answering like that you just didn’t understood what I was saying.
As for the societal institution you talk .. that’s a really ambiguous aspect to talk here since it involves other matters.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Walks back in, picks up cazzie’s popcorn and sits back to watch.

JilltheTooth's avatar

To be fair, @Blackberry , in regards to @Buttonstc‘s post, this Q is the first time you’ve differentiated. I feel like you and I have made our peace on this subject in other words, I won’t slap you if you don’t call me stupid ;-) but your efforts to understand the concepts of theism without the religious aspect come across, at first blush, as frankly, a set-up.

Blackberry's avatar

@JilltheTooth Hmmm, yeah it probably has been the first time, huh? I’ve been on here awhile so I don’t know what I’ve said months and months ago. Well, either way, it always seemed most religion and god debates were kind of centered around either religious gods, gods in general pertaining to their perceived opinions about social problems, or humans’ interpretation of gods, especially as justification for having ignorant (what I would call) opinions.

I hope that I’ve never jumped on someone for just saying “I believe in a creator”. But if someone says “I think god probably wants humans to do this and this…” or “Well, this book says this, so there’s probably some truth in it”, I kind of have to discipline myself to either not say anything, or try as respectfully as I can at the moment to question them without sounding rude :/

Brian1946's avatar

Makes fresh batch of floor-free popcorn and sets up butter-dispensing mosheen.

Blackberry's avatar

And you guys can take all your popcorn to a politics thread, we’re going to be nice here. Haha.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Blackberry Good for you. This has been an interesting discussion.

Blackberry's avatar

If you want, I can ask a separate (non religious) pop corn producing question. Lol.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Blackberry I’m headed out in awhile. Save it for next friday.

cazzie's avatar

grabs a clean bowl, ready to share what ever popcorn falls her way

OK…. I AM going to take a stab…. I am a non-theist…. an atheist… if you will, but, I am going to suggest that…... a god does not look over our day to days lives…... and that he has no interest in answering our selfish prayers. He MAY give us a small insight into the answers of the universe upon the moment we die…. so we can have a moment of…. *Oh yeah.’ before we die…..

Aethelflaed's avatar

Full disclosure: Not a theist – but, do enjoy learning about theology, religious history, etc, especially with a focus on Christianity. Also, will only be answering for Christianity, because I honestly have no freaking clue about other religions (though, there is obviously some crossover between Christianity and the other Abrahamic religions of Judaism and Islam.)

I think what you’re asking about is called Divine Providence in Christianity; that is, the activity of God in life and in the universe. I would sum up that page for you, except I really don’t think I can do it better than that page right now (incomplete though it is), so I’m really just going to say to go read that page, and ask/pm me if you have any questions, need any terms defined, need to know who any people are, etc. One part I’m going to expand upon is that Calvinism becomes very influential in America and the evolution of Christian theology in America, especially within more evangelical branches, and not just upon this issue. There has been a rise in the past few decades of the view of a more directly involved God (most especially within evangelical branches, but also within Protestantism at large within America; that God is now not just directly guiding bigger things (wars, famines, etc) or even bigger but still more personal things (who you wed, if you have a child, if you die, etc) but much “smaller” personal things (if your high school football team wins, if you can successfully skip a rock over the pond, etc).

Another part is that Catholicism deals with this to a certain extent through intercession. Basically, the role of saints is to play mediator between you and God, so you take whatever daily stuff you have to the saints, and they might pass it on to God. So, by this, God is both very directly and entirely indirectly involved in human and Earthly affairs.

@Adirondackwannabe I’m going to throw out the theory God would have to allow people free will to make their own decisions or there would be no way for the good to distinguish themselves from the bad. Ah, but there is, at least according to some theologians, most notability John Calvin. According to Calvin, we can spot those who, by God’s grace, will be saved and go to Heaven by those who “are righteous” and act righteously. Calvin does lay out some guidelines for how to spot those are righteous, like hard work, moral living, and thriftiness, but his guidelines do leave some room for interpretation (as does almost everything written in the history of ever). Eventually, in the 19th century, we see a rise within American evangelicalism/Protestantism of a conflation of material gains with righteousness, in something of a “God blesses on Earth (via money) those who He will also bless in Heaven” kind of view, which does help to reconcile Christian theology with the (then) newly capitalistic world.

digitalimpression's avatar

I believe God gave us free will. So, in a sense, I believe He created the universe, and us, and then took a step back. I do, however, believe that He can and does intervene when He deems it is appropriate. I believe that the manner in which He does so can be mysterious:

“Ephesians 3:9;And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ”

There are many other verses in the Bible that allude to this.

As far as all the attacking and arguing, I welcome it.

“2 Corinthians 12:9–10; And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been involved in a good number of discussions about all sorts of religious topics which ended up being futile. However, I understand that that is the nature of the beast.

Often times, people who are not theistic can hardly fathom the idea of a deity. The reverse is true as well. That is why I believe it is the actions of a theist more than the words of a theist that make a difference. If an atheist or agnostic person can see the difference in a Christian’s life, they may lend more merit to the idea.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Blackberry: As per my first response, I figured that by basically acknowledging that there was a very high chance that my beliefs would come under fire, I could kind of head others off at the pass. Usually, when I try to explain my beliefs to atheists who have asked about them, they have answers ready for everything usually along the lines of, “How do you know what you’re feeling/thinking/believing isn’t this?” I figured that by saying that I’m not sure about the extent of god’s involvement in my basic, everyday life, there would be someone who would perhaps say that my not knowing and being content to not know was my way of burying my head in the sand or perhaps that I did not truly believe and simply had no way to articulate that. To be fair, many of your comments about theism not Christianity, that is a very important distinction that atheists here on fluther have a tendency to forget tend to be nasty and judgmental. I know you probably think that likening a belief in god to a belief in leprechauns and the tooth fairy is cute or funny, but it is rude and dismissive. You can see how I would expect a metaphorical paddling.

Seeing as how this discussion has turned out very nicely, I will describe a few of my beliefs on this subject. I think that humans do not have the capacity to truly understand the concept of god or the motivations of that god. I believe that we are here now to simply be human and experience all that we can about being human in all senses. I think that we are as much our bodies as we are our minds and for those of us who believe our spirits. When someone feels as if they understand god, I do not think that they are wrong or delusional. I think that they understand the extent that they can given the capabilities and limitations of the human experience. I do not understand god. I think I understand a few basic things such as how god is some kind of being that is not at all human or any other animal. I do not think that we are made by god, but I think that, in a sense, god is in everyone and everything and thus when a human is born, a part of god is born as well and that part would not exist without the aid of other humans with other god-sparks inside them. I believe that when my body is harmed, I am harmed as badly as if my mind or my spirit is harmed. I believe that when someone does good in the name of god, they are actually doing it to expand their own experience of the human condition and to help expand or ameliorate the human condition in others. I believe that life is, in and of itself, divine and so, in one sense, god is in everything we do. However, I do not necessarily believe that there is an anthropomorphic being who controls everything we do. I believe we control ourselves.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Why in the world are people always saying these cliche lines about popcorn and watching the battle and then bitching about how battles happen?

Blackberry's avatar

Lol! I don’t know @Simone_De_Beauvoir.

Blackberry's avatar

@KatawaGrey You’re safe here, and thank you for your answer. :)

JilltheTooth's avatar

Damn. That’s my kid, up there! How fabulous is she??? Sorry if I embarrass you, MyMouse!
Just for the record, I have a different perception than her. And how cool is that, too???

Blackberry's avatar

That is pretty cool. To be honest, I’ve never really talked about this with my mom, I’ll bring that up soon (she’s not very religious so I’m not going to pull a Fluther on her, not that I really would anyway). Katawa just might be a little embarrassed, but that’s ok. As long as you’re not a facebook mom. Hahah!

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Blackberry : Ack! No, she was the one who pushed for me to come here… Talk to your mom. She’d probably love to have a “not traditional” mom and kid talk. She might even surprise you. And remember, she’s your mom. You may think you’re an atheist, but she is actually god. ;-)

Blackberry's avatar

She was the god in the Old Testament…...Ba Dum Chh! Just kidding :/

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JilltheTooth Don’t parents usually have different religious views than their kids?

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: @JilltheTooth and I do not have religious views. Religion is according to religious folks the search for god. We have found god. Therefore, neither of us has religious views at all. We have spiritual ideas.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir : Very often not, actually. I know lots of folks my age who share the same spritual views as their children. A lot of us raised in the 60s have very different views from our parents, but many of our own children came to the same (or a similar) place because of non-stressful discussions in the home, not a forced adherence as children to one path.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@KatawaGrey I have a different definition I suppose. I don’t think people who are religious would say they’re searching for god. They too would say they’ve certainly found god.

dabbler's avatar

There’s every reason to think the creator creates every moment.
The creator remakes totality each moment.
The creator make the next moment to which we are referring when we mention “time”.

If I understand it correctly Vedanta would describe the process in the hands of three deity principles.
Brahma is the potential of all possibilities, Vishnu is the fact of the current moment. Siva propels us to the next moment.

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