Girl watching the Moonrise on a starry skies.“If we find ourselves, in contemplating it, unable to banish the impression that it (the Kosmos) is a realm of final purposes, that it exists for the sake of something, we place intelligence at the heart of it and have a religion.”  William James (whom Wikipedia describes as “one of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century and is believed by many to be one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced, while others have labeled him the Father of American psychology.”)

“Does God exist?”

I believe that question is increasingly floating (unspoken) in people’s minds more than any time in history. I have no intention of telling you how you should answer that question.  But I believe determining for yourself what you believe is important–not what you have been told you should believe, but what you actually do believe.

To be successful at life, life needs to have purpose. The purpose you have in your life is influenced, if not limited, by your beliefs about why you even exist.

My original intent was to exude neutrality and not state on this website my own beliefs regarding religion.

But I have decided that would be cowardly.  Besides there is no way to bring up the subject and avoid controversy, no matter how neutral I try to be.  So I will state only basics of what I do not and what I do believe.

But my intent is not to convince you to believe what I believe.  Instead I want to convince you to search for yourself and determine what you actually do believe.  Maybe knowing about my journey will help, but do not trust my destination–especially since I do not believe I have arrived at my own destination.  Other chapters will give more examples of what I do not believe, and maybe some hints of what I do believe to the degree it may be helpful in your own search.

When I was preparing to leave for college, the pastor of our country church wanted to talk to me. He was very caring and sincere, and I still have great respect for him.  He told me I needed to be careful about taking any college courses on religion, because they can be dangerous in creating doubt about the doctrines and beliefs I had been taught.

I was confident that my beliefs were strong enough to handle a college professor ignorant about God’s truth. And I thought a few college courses would be good for my overall knowledge about the Bible.

I only took one religious studies course in college, on the book of Isaiah. I do not remember reading or being told anything in that course that contradicted any doctrine or belief I had been taught in Sunday school and church.

But my pastor was correct. That course put a permanent hairline crack in what I believed.  I was afraid to take another religious studies course for fear of losing my beliefs.  It has only been in recent years (after I determined it was not just ok but necessary to question my own beliefs) that I have understood why and what of my beliefs cracked.

As I mentioned there was nothing in the course on Isaiah that contracted my beliefs. The crack was instead in my justifications for what I believed.  When I read or was told about the Bible, I envisioned the stories played out in a fantasy world based partly on our American culture and partly on a fairy tale land.  I interpreted those Bible stories in that fantasy world.  When I realized the world in those times was very different from the world I had imagined, the meaning of the stories changed, and the puzzle pieces that formed my beliefs no longer fit together so snugly.

I did not take any additional religious studies courses until the later part of my life, for fear learning other things about which I was naïve would widen the crack.  I clung very tightly to what I had been taught.  And throughout most of my life, as I accidently learned other things that caused more pieces of my beliefs not to fit together so well, I simply forced them together.

Eventually I decided that I have more than a right to question my own beliefs and what I have been taught.  I have a responsibility to question them, otherwise I abdicate my own responsibility for what I believe.

It is perfectly ok to believe something “on faith” or “because God said.”  But I need to make sure that “on faith” does not mean because someone told me so.  If I believe something because God said, I need to determine for myself that God said rather than rely on someone having told me what God said.

So the first thing I no longer believe: I no longer believe in religions telling me that if I think for myself or question what I am told I put myself at risk of eternal damnation. If even the most basic consideration of other ideas causes doubt in my beliefs, something is very wrong.

Similarly, I no longer believe in a god created in the image of man (or woman).  I am not referring to Jesus, or Buddha, or Muhammad.  I mean I do not believe in depictions of a god who has the same thoughts men have or acts in the same way men act (or women).  I relate more to the passage in Isaiah (chapter 55 verse 8), “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”  I think the Hindu belief that human beings are incapable of comprehending the “reality” that created the universe is closer to reality than those who relate to a god that thinks and sees the world the same way they think and see the world.  I believe the highest and most irrational form of self-righteousness is believing you could possibly have the same point of view that God has.

One thing I believe now is that any religious doctrine is possible.  It is not possible for all doctrines to be true, and some doctrines are less plausible than others.  But that does not mean that any one doctrine is impossible.  It is possible that just a few thousand years ago God created the world in seven 24-hour days, and to test our faith God scattered Earth with what appear to be million year old dinosaur bones.  It is possible that we are reborn over and over as different animals or insects dependent on the karma we created in our past lives.  It is also possible you do have the same point of view God has. I do not believe it, but it is possible.

I have an iron anvil and hammer at home that I have used to beat and shape hardened steel. But it is possible that the anvil and hammer I see are actually only empty space, and there is no solid matter there. An objective lesson from science today (particularly from quantum mechanics) is that nothing is as it appears to us and anything can be true.

That is my scientific reasoning.  But my real reason for believing that any religious doctrine is possible is that experience has taught me that to do otherwise causes me to become narrow minded and self-righteous.  If I look down on anyone else’s beliefs, I justify them looking down on mine.  In addition, I prevent myself from learning the insights that exist in a number of religions millions or billions of people have followed over centuries.  I have found many wonderful insights in religions about which I once was afraid to learn anything.

I do not believe everything.  But I respect any doctrine as possible–except for those who believe they have a right to force or harm anyone who has a different belief than their own.  That right I do reject as impossible.

It has been said that everyone sometimes questions her/his beliefs.  Even when I tried to not question my beliefs, sometimes I did.  But as I mentioned, eventually I determined I have a responsibility to question everything I believe.

So I did assertively questioned everything.

However, there has been one thing, and only one thing, that throughout my entire life, no matter how often I questioned myself, no matter how hard I questioned myself, I have always realized I do believe.

Every single time I have looked up into the stars and asked myself the question William James posed, do I believe the universe has a purpose, do I believe the universe exists for the sake of something, every single time I have contemplated it, I have been unable to banish the impression that yes, the universe does have a purpose, and yes, the universe does exist for the sake of something.

I do not know where this belief comes from. I can rationalize justifications for it, and many of those justifications are in chapters about science in Success in the Universe.  But those rationalizations are not proof, and they are not the reasons I believe this.  I just know that when I gaze into it, I cannot banish the impression deep inside myself that the universe has a purpose, that it exists for the sake of something.

I have looked up and asked myself that question when life was easy and when life was hard; when I was pleased with myself and when I was ashamed of myself; when I trusted others and when I felt there was no one I could trust; when I believed the world is a good place and when I believed the world is evil.

I can reject every organized religious doctrine and belief.  But as William James reasoned, if I believe the universe has a purpose, then I put intelligence at the heart of it.  So I have a religion

–Even if it is just mine.

But my belief determines nothing for you. Perhaps you gaze into the universe, and you do not believe or are not convinced it has a purpose.  Perhaps that process answers nothing for you.

But to be successful at life, your life needs purpose.  This book and website are intended to provide information that may be helpful to you in determining for yourself what you do believe and the purpose in your life.

Good luck!