I value my work with you and the group but I must admit that there are times when we get into discussions of God that I find off-putting. I have been more or less an atheist for many years and that can shape my response to our work.
Many of those involved in the fourth way are atheists, at least in the beginning. They pursue this path precisely because it is not a conventional religion. My question to you is ‘can you keep an open mind or is this simply a matter of unexamined belief?’
Most atheists seem to be slaves of the very conventionality they reject. They see the way God is described or explained in religion and they dismiss that. In my view, they are rejecting religion, not God. They are dismissing a way of thinking which has many obvious shortcomings, without knowing how to look for themselves. In effect, they use the ideas of the religions they ridicule to formulate an idea or image of God they can then dismantle. Why not look for yourself? Perhaps you will find, as C.S. Lewis did, that “I was angry with God for not existing.”
The God of the religions is a man-made God, a conceptual God that is very far from the truth, in my opinion. God is found by summoning and exploring one’s deepest feelings, not intellectually but in the heart. Can you find evidence of the miraculous in your own experience …momentary perceptions of beauty, love, joy and delight? Can you nurture and protect this evidence from the harsh materiality of ordinary thinking and behaviour? Can you keep this evidence concept-free? Do you see that the source of these experiences is not easily explained? Now, would it be ok if we refer to these feelings as evidence of God?
It is easy to see that humans are selfish and obsessively focussed on their own comforts. Nonetheless, I think the pursuit of God is a natural, necessary and satisfying pursuit for us. As a species, we have an unerring sense of our own insufficiency which we try to compensate for in a thousand ways. Each of us has a deep insecurity which, in my view, can only be assuaged by encounters with God, encounters that are uniquely one’s own.