February 16th, 2021
The lectures of William James have probably affected my life more than anything I have ever read. His pre-1900 thoughts on religion — the ideas of religion, the science of religion — have had an irreversible effect on how I see the world, secular or otherwise.
In one of my favorite sections, he draws up three basic rules that humankind should follow when dealing with divine intervention. The reason I love these rules so much is that they’re designed for the best of all humanity, no matter what you do or don’t believe. He posits that if we keep these rules in mind when dealing with forces we don’t fully understand, we would more fully understand one another. I completely agree.
So without further ado: these are the three simple rules for talking to God.
1. When a person tells you they have spoken to God, whether it be a dream, vision, or other form of communication, you need to accept that as a fact. It does not matter if you believe in God or not. The reason for this is because they accept it as fact, and the sooner you realize this, the easier it will be to navigate.
Secular people will argue in these situations by using factual information — things that are provable, things we can see and hear. What they fail to understand is that the person who heard God considers this conversation to be just as real as numbers or flowers or your dog.
It may not solve any arguments, but it will give you a better understanding.
2. The person who heard God may not, by any means, force another human to do something that God told them to.
As you can imagine, this is a big one. (Huge Christian atrocities, like the Crusades, could have been sidestepped by this one.)
For example, let’s say my friend Jordan had a dream, and in that dream, God told him that I needed to move to Japan. Jordan tells me about his conversation with passionate conviction. I hear him, understanding that he accepts this vision as fact. I now have the right as a fellow human being to thank him for sharing, but to also decline the relocation to Japan. Following these two rules, Jordan needs to respect my response.
Which brings us to the third and final rule.
3. If a person shares their conversation with God, and I independently decide that it makes sense to me, there is nothing wrong with making the decision to go with it, regardless of my beliefs.
Let’s continue my example: now, Jordan has told me that God told him I should move to Japan. Instead of outright discrediting it, I decide to actually consider it. The more I do, the more I find the move actually makes sense for me.
The third rule says that despite my reasons or personal beliefs, I can independently decide to listen to and follow any divine advice given by other people.
And that’s it.
I’m personally agnostic, which is the grayest spiritual area. Believers *know* what they believe, atheists *know* there is nothing to believe. Agnostics only know they are unsure.
The only thing I’m sure of is that being mindful of anyone makes this life more livable for everyone.