Know God? We barely even know ourselves

"The unexamined life is not worth living."
The question of God's existence begins with you. We debate the existence of God - who is he? Can we know him? But, the question really is: Who are you? Do you know yourself? Do you exist? The answer may seem obvious, but it is not. God is easy. You are complex.

Descartes may well have said, "I think, therefore I am", but it appears the truth is a little more complicated. Who you think is you is not really you. For the most part, it is an illusion. You are made up of a series of lies - multiple layers, according to a recent article by Dr Clark Falconer in Pick The Brain. The real you is hidden under several layers of fear. This is Philip Larkin's "coastal shelf". It is the mountain spoken of by Jesus.

It is helpful to know if we are an introvert or an extravert? How do we perceive life? Under what circumstances do we begin to feel that life is disintegrating? In The Successful Self, Dorothy Rowe describes it this way:
Extraverts see the threat of annihilation of the self as complete isolation, being left totally, utterly and forever alone, and thus withering, fading away, totally disappearing into nothingness.

Introverts see the threat of annihilation of the self as losing control of your self and your life and falling apart, falling into chaos, fragmenting, crumbling to dust.
What do we do to keep the "threat of annihilation" from happening? All of this construct will be based on a series of untruths - a false interpretation of certain events that have taken place in our lives. We need gradually to return to these events and re-interpret them, seeing them with more experienced eyes.

You might know where you are right now, but can you retrace the steps that brought you here?
Cobb: Dreams - they feel real while we're in them, right? It's only when we wake up that we realize how things are actually strange. Let me ask you a question, you, you never really remember the beginning of a dream do you? You always wind up right in the middle of what's going on.
Ariadne: I guess, yeah.
Cobb: So how did we end up here?
Ariadne: Well we just came from the...uh...
Cobb: Think about it Ariadne, how did you get here? Where are you right now?
Ariadne: We're dreaming?

Inception (2010)
Furthermore, it is not simply about what and how. The primary question we are interested in as we retrace our steps is "Why?" It is not only a question of "Does God exist?" but, "What does he want? Why does he exist? What is the point?"

So, ask yourself the same questions: Why do you exist? It is not just about retracing the steps, but asking, "Why did I take them?"
  • Why are you living where you live?
  • Why are you with the man or woman you are with?
  • Why do you have children? Why do you not have children?
  • Why do you do the job you do?
  • Why do you believe in God? Why do you not believe in God?
  • Why do you belong to this religion?
Ask it about everything. Ask it particularly about defining moments - memories that somehow stand out from others. Use the laddering technique to answer the question, "Why is this important to me?" See how many times you stall and hesitate and say, "I don't know." That's how well we know ourselves. But there are answers to all those whys, and we need to find out what they are.

It gets harder the further back we go, another stark reminder that we may not really exist. The past fades away like the trail of a jet plane until all we are left with is an empty blue sky. Either the bright blue of a perfectly adequate "happy" upbringing, or the cold blue of an undefinable melancholia that we shrug off and pass over as of no consequence. It is here, however, that our true existence was born and formed. It is vital that we remember. It is helpful to know as much as we can about our parents, too. The more we know, the more we can understand. Only with understanding can forgiveness come. And with forgiveness comes the greatest discovery of all.

As you get to know yourself, the question of God's existence takes care of itself. "I and the Father are one," said Jesus. You no more doubt the existence of God as doubt your own existence.

If you say you have done all of this and still don't believe in God, remember (Dr Gregory) House Rule #1:
"Everybody lies"
There is a question somewhere that you have not answered truthfully. The rejection of God is essentially the rejection of yourself.

If you still believe religion is necessary, again, your journey back has not been an entirely honest one. God wants to be worshipped formally as much as you do. Religion exists to appease a vengeful God. God is no more vengeful than you are. Religion is not about thanks and appreciation. Gratitude and worship are things that are reflected in our enjoyment of life, and the love we demonstrate to one another. Both atheism and religious zeal are the products of men who are running from God - running and hiding from themselves. We spend our time seeking answers to the big question of how life got here, but it is merely a way of avoiding the more personal question, "How did I get here?" That is a harder question to address.

Disciples in the first century found that it was easier to change Jesus into something they wanted him to be than it was to change themselves. The greatest sacrifice is to sacrifice ourselves, to put our old personality to death in order to let our new personality - our authentic self - live. It is too scary a prospect to examine our own lives, to see who we really are. It is much easier to imagine a God who expects us to do something, that way we can perpetuate an illusion of hard-working faith.

Real freedom lies in stripping off the old personality. Every falsehood uncovered takes us a step closer to God until finally oneness with God is achieved. Only by courageously peeling back the layers can we begin to move the mountain. Dr Falconer talks about finding the light. It is the discovery of the real you, the authentic you - your personal truth. Life will never be the same again.

Until we go through this process at some point in our lives, then we run the risk of simply ceasing to exist. We drift through life without any idea of what our motivations are. If the prospect of examining our own lives seems too daunting to contemplate, remember that Jesus aid, "If you have faith the size of a mustard grain, you will say to this mountain, ‘Transfer from here to there,’ and it will transfer, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Just the tiniest inkling that there might be some truth to all of this might be all it takes to send you on your journey across the abyss, and back towards God.

Further reading
The Successful Self - Dorothy Rowe
Self Matters - Dr Phil McGraw