Andrew Sullivan: Politics as Religion: on Social Justice & Trump

Whether or not things change, he knows who he is.

He still has a sense of dignity and worth and he trusts that transformational change will come, though it may not happen in his lifetime.

Both the social justice movement and Trump arise out of idolatry.

The atheistic movements opened up a vacuum for other things, a type of politics.

People’s beliefs become more extreme when the move away from religion.

Religion is not the substance in the bowl.  It is the bowl.

The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction

For those of us who pay close attention in Sunday school, a troubling dissimilarity may begin to appear between what we are told of God’s personality and what we learn of it from His actions. For example, we are told that God is merciful, just, compassionate, and the very definition of love and forgiveness. However, the Bible lays out God’s primary qualities very differently: he is jealous, petty, unforgiving, bloodthirsty, vindictive, and worse! Originally conceived as a joint presentation between influential thinker and bestselling author Richard Dawkins and former evangelical preacher Dan Barker, the book we will be talking about today, God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction (Sterling, 2016) provides an investigation into this rather serious discrepancy. Barker combs through both the Old and New Testament (as well as thirteen different Bible editions), presenting powerful evidence for why the Scripture shouldn’t govern our everyday lives.

Dan Barker is a former evangelical minister and current atheist. He is the co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, cohost of Freethought Radio, and cofounder and board member of the Clergy Project. A widely sought-after lecturer, debater, and performer, he regularly discusses atheism and lifes meaning and purpose in the national media, with past appearances on OprahThe Daily ShowThe O’Reilly FactorGood Morning America, and many others. He is here with me today to talk about this witty, well-researched book and explain to us how the evidence in it suggests that we should move past the Bible and clear a path to a kinder and more thoughtful world.

Richard Rohr: Seeing with God’s Eyes

Love [people] even in [their] sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov [1] 

God refuses to be known in the way we usually know other objects; God can only be known by loving God. Yet much of religion has tried to know God by words, theories, doctrines, and dogmas. Belief systems have their place; they provide a necessary and structured beginning point, just as the dualistic mind is good as far as it goes. But then we need the nondual or mystical mind to love and fully experience limited ordinary things and to peek through the cloud to glimpse infinite and seemingly invisible things. This is the contemplative mind that can “know spiritual things in a spiritual way,” as Paul says (1 Corinthians 2:13).

What does it mean when Jesus tells us to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind (not just our dualistic mind), and strength (Luke 10:27)? What does it mean, as the first commandment instructs us, to love God more than anything else? To love God is to love what God loves. To love God means to love everything . . . no exceptions.

Of course, that can only be done with divine love flowing through us. In this way, we can love things and people in themselves, for themselves—not for what they do for us. That’s when we begin to love our family, friends, and neighbors apart from what they can do for us or how they make us look. We love them as living images of God in themselves, despite their finiteness.

Now that takes work: constant detachment from ourselves—our conditioning, preferences, and knee-jerk reactions. We can only allow divine love to flow by way of contemplative consciousness, where we stop eliminating and choosing. This is the transformed mind (see Romans 12:2) that allows us to see God in everything and empowers our behavior to almost naturally change.

Religion, from the root religio, means to reconnect, to bind back together. I would describe mystical moments as those attention-grabbing experiences that overcome the gap between you and other people, events, or objects, and even God, where the illusion of separation disappears. The work of spirituality is to look with a different pair of nondual eyes, beyond what Thomas Merton calls “the shadow and the disguise” [2] of things until we can see them in their connectedness and wholeness. In a very real sense, the word “God” is just a synonym for everything. So if you do not want to get involved with everything, stay away from God.