FROM THE TIME OF THE APOSTLES' CREED, people have memorialized their beliefs in written form. In my religious tradition, thirteen "articles of faith" answered a newpaper editor's questions about a new church, and those assertions came to form the belief backbone of that religion. Benjamin Franklin wrote a little handbook entitled "Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion" to formulate a method for attaining perfection in his personal life. Every week he focused on one of the thirteen virtues on his list, mastering many, including "industry," "frugality" and "sincerity."
Many people live out their lives unquestioningly performing a script given to them by others or by mindlessly rejecting it. Few people take the difficult step of examining what it is they truly believe and then formulating a system therefrom that guides their actions. In simple terms, writing down our beliefs -- creating our own articles of faith -- ensures that our acts are based on a coherent philosophy.
Over the next few columns, I will share my own "Articles of Faith," not to proselyte, but to encourage you to craft your own. My list of beliefs has given me great solace, peace and direction in my life. I'm certain writing your own Articles of Faith will do the same for you.
THE NATURE OF GOD
I believe in God. I have no evidence, save the stirrings of my heart when I contemplate the immensity of the universe on a starry night. Because it is human nature to anthropomorphize deity, I am not surprised that in a white male-dominated world, our image of God is that of an elder, bearded, white male god. Therefore, I use this imagery to refer to God, not because I believe God is male or even a singular entity, but for the sake of simplicity.
I believe God is progressing. Not just in power, progeny and domain, but in knowledge, experience and wisdom. If he were not, his life would be unutterably boring. Nevertheless, he is so far beyond us as to appear perfect to us.
I believe God’s power is limited. Because God is progressing, he therefore does not have unlimited power. For example, man's free will is self-existent, not granted by God, though it conceivably may be limited or expanded by him. God's own limitations do not diminish his power or authority; rather they serve as an impetus for his continuing progress, which gives his life meaning.
I believe God is perfect in character. Just as it is ignorance to ascribe limited human physical characteristics to God, so is burdening him with human personality disorders such as jealousy, anger, changeability, or a desire for retributive punishment.
I believe God’s prime characteristic is love. Therefore, he is no respecter of persons. There is no "chosen" race, gender, marital status, group identification, church or sexual orientation. It follows, then, that anyone who believes God is a respecter of persons—that he is a bigot—cannot by definition be inspired of God or speak or act in his name.
I believe God’s purpose is to help us become like him. Since, by definition, love wants what is best for the beloved, God desires that we achieve the knowledge and wisdom he has achieved.
Next time: THE NATURE OF MAN