So is God real? It seems safe to say at least this much: he is real insofar as he is a force who influences human beings who believe in his existence. In his landmark Gifford Lectures at Edinburgh in 1901, the American philosopher William James quoted a Bryn Mawr colleague on the matter: "The truth of the matter can be put in this way: God is not known, he is not understood; he is used - sometimes as a meat-purveyor, sometimes as moral support, sometimes as friend, sometimes as an object of love. If he proves himself useful, the religious consciousness asks for no more than that. Does God really exist? How does he exist? What is he? are so many irrelevant questions. Not God, but life, more life, a larger, richer, more satisfying life, is, in the last analysis, the end of religion."
But, says Norm, 'real insofar as he is a force who influences human beings who believe in his existence' is obviously a question-begging trick: unless God actually does exist, the force that influences those who believe in his existence is not God but their belief in him. So God is either really real or he isn't real at all. There's no middle way in which God is real insofar as. As for the William James quote, I have no wish to appear disrespectful, but the same line of argument might equally be used to establish the validity of the idea of the Tooth Fairy.
My own difference with Norm here may be put in the form of a question. Why do we assume that no matter what the subject matter - trees, money, love, God - we can always draw the distinction between the real and the unreal in the same way? How would we go about distinguishing between a real and an unreal tree, money, love, God? Surely it is in the different ways in which we go about this that we come to appreciate the notions of reality involved. We do not know, free of any context, what the distinction between the real and the unreal comes to, and the context in which to consider the reality of God is the collection of beliefs and practices that we call religion.
Known to Jews as Pesach, it's a time of forgivenenss and letting go. After all, 'there is no saint who doesn't have a past, and no sinner who doesn't have a future.
The family holiday ritual meal is called the Seder. The wicked son who mocks the Seder meal is not really wicked. After all, he has turned up. Why were the rabbis discussing the laws of Pesach until morning? Well 'morning' in Hebrew is Shakhrit spelt: sh - kh - r - i - t - Shakhrit. The 'sh' = the son who doesn't know how to ask. (she) The 'kh' = the son who is wise (khacham) The 'r' = the son who is wicked (rasha) The 't' = the simple, pure or uncomplicated son (tam) The extra yod? That stands for the divinity which combines them together. So 'morning' represents all the elements which go to make up a person: we are all at times unable to ask, at times wise, at times wicked and at times somewhat naive.
As Irene Lancaster says in her blog, quite an insight for a religion that some say is obsolete.
Five out of six is even better. But somehow, when it comes to marriage and divorce, we don't think so. Along with many others I have been married twice, my first attempt to stay married ending in divorce. My second marriage in 1983 is still going strong and I'm sure only the old Grim Reaper will bring us down.
I believe that as many as one in three first marriages, and about a half of second marriages, end in divorce. Not nice. Divorce I mean. Especially for the kids. But the statistics are really quite impressive when you think about it. What they add up to is this; that, in spite of all the known difficulties and distractions, around five out of six people who choose to get married have within the first two attempts found a partner for life. I ask you, how many of life's other great matters do we get right, or right enough, by only our second attempt?
Actually I think it's even more surprising, given that, if you are a church member, and even more if you are/were an Anglican priest, there are so many with an active interest in your second marriage coming to grief. It's hard enough dealing with the negative feelings of those who have an interest in the previous arrangement, but when dear old Mother Church is secretly hoping that the new relationship goes belly-up to expose to the world the error of your ways, the odds against you are piled even higher.
So five out of six or thereabouts turns out to be a resounding vote of faith and confidence in God's great gift of matrimony.