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Greetings Everyone, This is the podcast “Close to the Bone.” My name is Carl Vreeland.

 

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This is episode #35, entitled, Is God a Crutch?

 

I love the sciences. Whether it be the neurosciences, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, psychiatry, metaphysics, or philosophy, I love them all. I love the how and why of it, the discoveries, speculations, and theories. And I love the medical world, and I am no doubt grateful for all the lives it has saved.

 

Indeed, I love science. But there’s more to life than science, proof, facts, and scientific truths. There’s more to life than planets, stars, and black holes. And there’s more to us than cells, veins, arteries, organs, bones, and skin. There is our consciousness, self-awareness, and humanness. And there is the human condition; birth, death, love, and conflict. And we are subject to fear, anxiety, anger, aging, and illness. Again, I love science. And if not for science, I wouldn’t technically know about my nervous system and the cosmos. Still, we are emotional and spiritual beings, not just intellectual beings. We experience joy and pain. And whatever the neurology behind the joy and pain might be, and however much knowledge and understanding of the mechanics of our bodies and consciousness we might learn, science will never aid us in overcoming loss and heartbreak, not entirely anyway. We are not automatons, we are sentient beings. We are spiritual beings. And science will never be a substitute for human connection and divine connection.

 

Now before I go on about the Divine or God, and religion and spiritually, let me say that I understand the take on religion from modern atheists such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens. And I largely agree with them on how they view religion. Religion has caused plenty of dispute and strife. It has been the source of suffering for the gay community, it has been problematic in the passing of pro-abortion rights, and it has been stifling the progress of stem cell research. And to add to this, Dawkins particularly points out that religion, unlike science, is not evidence-based, and that a belief in God is nothing more than a delusional state of being.

 

If I may be so bold, I think Dawkins and the others overlook the great importance of religion and God. I know they have an agenda, and perhaps this is why they are so adamant about ridding of religion full stop. But there are other intellectuals who feel differently. Jordan Peterson is but one example. His message is clear about religion; the religious-based stories and mythologies are vital to the well-being of humans. Not unlike Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Albert Einstein, Dr. Peterson views God, religion, and spirituality as a part of our hard wiring, if you will. And that the stories, parables, and myths are not so much a divine gift, but a way to the divine, to our true nature, to wholeness.

 

Dr. Peterson has said on several occasions, when asked if he believes in God, “I act as if God exists.” Well, what does this mean exactly? My guess is he’s succinctly saying that none of us know whether or not God exists, but acting as though He does is helpful to us and our fellows. And that following the myths, ideas, lessons, and ethics, and processing them, which is suggested in many religious writings, and of course taking action, will lead us into living a healthy and balanced life, and aid us in getting along with one another. More than that, they can guide us into creating a heaven on earth, rather than a hell.

 

Sometime ago, I realized that believing in God doesn’t help anyone. Indeed, faith without works is dead. Whether we believe in God or not, we must take action. We must help ourselves. And the teachings of Western religion, as well as the spiritual teachings of Yoga, Buddhism, and Taoism, and most certainly the Twelve Step Program of AA are clear about this; we must put forth the effort. Simply believing in God does nothing and changes nothing. I’ve witnessed many God-fearing folks fail to overcome living dishonest, cynical lives. On the other hand, I’ve seen people suffering from psychological and emotional trauma, and deep depression, overcome their difficulties in ways that were beyond scientific explanation. Through the guidance of others, surrendering their lives to a God of their understanding, taking action, and helping others, they found an inner-strength, and were able to rise above their hopelessness. I heard it said that effort plus surrender equals grace.

 

Frankly, I have yet to see science help someone who is dying of cancer find peace and acceptance with their impending death. I have yet to see science help someone overcome addiction, loss, and despair. I have yet to see a human being overcome anger, resentment, fear, anxiety, depression, and suicidal desires by way of science. And I have yet to see science transform a man from a cold-blooded killer, serving time in a state penitentiary, into a compassionate Buddha-like human being helping others in the rooms of recovery.

 

It’s clear to me that if we are to be helped by God and the guidance of the spiritual and religious practices, we must help ourselves. No one can save us but ourselves. This is the problem with the implicit promise and hope we have toward the sciences and specifically the medical world; we want to believe that they alone will save us. That the doctors will discover or create a magic cure and a happy pill. Likewise, some of us believe that another person can save us. Typically men fantasize about finding a beautiful, sexy goddess, who happens to have maternal caretaking qualities as well, saving them. Generally women wish for a knight in shining armor that will someday rescue them and care for them for them and make everything better. But it’s all make-believe. Nothing can save us, we must save ourselves. We need to find wholeness within ourselves, not by way of another like a some soul mate or something. We need to do right, eat right, stay active physically and mentally. Likewise, if we are to experience God’s grace, we need to be honest, loving, kind, be of service to others, admit our powerlessness, surrender our will, and accept God’s will.

 

Now it should be apparent; this is not about using God as a crutch. No, it’s about experiencing grace through hard work, great effort, and yes, faith. In the Big Book of AA it says, “All men of faith have courage.”1 Indeed, faith doesn’t mean we simply pray and sit around waiting for God to help us. Again, faith without works is dead. We must do the work, we must surrender to what is. We must get out of our own way, create space, and let God in. An addict finds the strength and wherewithal to save himself through action and surrender, not using God as a crutch. He finds the power that he obviously lacks through letting God in, not from leaning on Him. An alcoholic does not find the hope and faith to forge ahead in the midst of despair through science. He finds it in the spiritual realm. Sure, there are professionals that can help, such as the ones in detox and rehabilitation centers. But do you know what methods they use at these centers? That’s right, you guessed it; spiritual ones. They talk about God, a Higher Power, admitting one’s powerlessness, surrendering to a God of one’s understanding, prayer, meditation, and the like. Yes, they might offer pills, a diet, and an exercise regimen, but there are religious and spiritual tools being offered as well. Moreover, do you know what these people of science suggest for aftercare to their clients? AA meetings, church services, and Yoga classes.

 

Admittingly, some use God or religion as a crutch, in which they sit around waiting for God to do something to change their lives or fix something. But this is certainly not the case for all folks. That said, life is complicated. It’s not black and white. To simply say religion or religious people are foolish, lazy, and even dangerous, is a bit, well, judgmental and unfair. Again, life is too complex to make broad statements. Sure, we all do it, but it doesn’t help anyone as far as I can see.

 

Look, there are plenty of wonderful, good-hearted, open-minded religious people. In fact, many of them are in the sciences. And as they say, even atheists pray during turbulence. I’m sure even Sam Harris needs to put aside his mission of ridding the world of religion at the end of the day, close the intellectual shop down, as it were, in order to get out of his head. And I’m sure, like most of us, he needs to relax and connect, with his family. And perhaps it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that there are times when he even wishes and hopes, and maybe even prays, that his children will have a good life.

 

When one puts down his or her sword at night and reflects on this extraordinary experience of living, he risks, if you will, entering the spiritual world. He chances realizing just how fragile life is, and how lucky he is to be alive. He may even admit to himself, if only for a moment, that he is powerless in many ways. And in that moment he may experience humility and humbleness. Whereas he may acknowledge that he is not in control, that he is not in charge, that there are powers and laws outside of his comprehension that run this show called life.

 

Well, that’s all I have, thank you for listening. If you like the podcast, check out my website, carltvreeland.com, you’ll find several podcast transcripts there on my blog page, and there’s also a link to my YouTube channel, 12 Steps to Heaven. And please don’t forget to leave a Star Rating or Review on Apple for the podcast. Again, thank you for listening.

 

  1. How it Works, Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book, p. 68.

 

I strongly encourage my readers to share their thoughts and add to the conversation. Don’t be shy, leave your comments below. 

 

 

 

Comments(4)

    • Michele Houston

    • 8 months ago

    Hi Carl,
    This is an important topic for so many people. We struggle with the conflict between science and God, which can help us more. It’s nice you’ve discussed that we don’t need to choose and can mesh the best and most meaningful of both to make our lives better. And discard the meaningless or harmful aspect of each that doesn’t help us be better people. Life is not black and white in the context of these concepts (or any, really). And it is fluid, as we need one or the other more we can lean into it for strength, inspiration and wisdom. Thank you as always for your insight.

    1. Hi Michele,

      Thanks for the comment. It’s especially difficult to revaluate and change our view (and experience) when raised in a Western religion. When I discovered, during my college years (while studying comparative religion), that in the East one can be a practitioner of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism simultaneously, it was eye-opening. The Western religions, i.e., Christianity, Judaism (and even Islam), are designed in a way where you must be a member of one group and one group only, because only one can be the truth. With the Eastern so-called religions, this is not so. One reason is this; the Western religions (and Islam) are concerned with dogma and belief, the Eastern “religions” are concerned with psychic transformation.

      Thanks again for commenting. I hope you find my response helpful.

      Carl

    • KAYSWELL

    • 2 months ago

    Attractive portion of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog, loved account your blog posts. Anyway I will be subscribing.

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