Unlearning God: How Unbelieving Helped Me Believe

In order to have a healthy relationship with God, Quaker author Phil Gulley says that we must first unlearn some of what we’ve been taught about God.

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11 thoughts on “Unlearning God: How Unbelieving Helped Me Believe

  1. Thank you, Phil. A wonderfully cogent expression of the risks in believing in an omni-theistic god. And it begs the question, ‘So, what is God?’

    Perhaps the start of an amazing journey of discovery or the realisation of an omni-present reality in both time and place, or a combination of both.

  2. It happened to me in about 1978. It came to me like an idea. “Of course there is no such thing as God!” It was a little scary, but I experienced such relief and freedom, a peacefulness. No fear about religion. A clearing.
    That lead me to a revelation in May of 1981. It lasted about 15 minutes and lingered throughout the day and long after. I had a personal experience of God.
    This did not negate “Of course the is no such thing as God!”
    It was additional experience of the true nature of God.
    I maintain I am Atheist or non theist. I also believe in the teachings of Jesus.
    I do not use Christ preceding his name. My understanding is he was speaking from “Christ Conscienceless.” He may have not even existed. The “teaching may have come from others and presented as a story more easily accepted.
    Thank you for your presentation. Bob Holzman

  3. This video makes me want to cry and I did. God is omnipresent or you wouldn’t be breathing. Someday may you realize that Spirit is who you are. And yes Spirit is ever present it is the human ego that have yet to come into the realization of the Light within. The Light / Spirit that lighteth every one who comes into the world. Every being. One can deny this ever-present Grace but someday some how the Truth will dawn upon you.

  4. I like what he says, but not sure it’s “Quaker-centric”? Anyone who believes in God
    can feel this way. It’s very healthy, I think, and helps encourage one to go forth and
    do your best to improve the world. God is always there, but you have to rely on
    your God-given strengths and talents to get things done. I like that!

  5. I grew up among Bible-Battered Midwest Unitarians. Belief in God was an option, Jesus was one of many teachers. But the youth-led worship services ended in “Quaker Silence” and no one could explain why sometimes the Silence ended way too soon, and sometimes lasted way too long. So I’m a Quaker. God is a reality and I depend on Friends to help me figure it out – it’s the compact we have with each other.
    Then I heard someone I deeply respected tell an FGC gathering that the son of a carpenter from Galilee who died 2,000 years ago was a central force in his life. I asked the Presence, “Are You simply ‘God’ or are you ‘Jesus Christ’ and a Voice said, “I am Jesus Christ”. Ooops!
    I knew the World Trade Center, knew that it was wrong, knew that it had to come down, knew the joy of playing with light reflecting off the buildings and flowing through them. I also knew that the NYC Fire Department is committed to protecting property, not just people. A whole fire company will respond to an overheated hot plate.
    I was there when they came down and I was furious, not gentle and forgiving, I was embarrassingly [for a seasoned Quaker] mad. …And there was Jesus, sitting on a rock just inside the entrance to a tomb. “WHAT are YOU Doing HERE???” I demanded. He gently smiled, held up his pierced hands and replied, “Where did you expect me to be?” And then I felt his arms around me as I beat my fists against his chest until my anger was spent.
    I learned that whatever happens to me, however terrible life may treat me, Jesus will always be there with understanding and love: I will never be alone; and I find that comforting [which may be a useful definition of ‘salvation’]. Buddha died from over-eating, Mohammed rode off on a horse, Jesus died on a cross, tortured until he could take no more; and then he conquered death, and fear, and the Power-of-the-World. That’s why I’m a Christian. It would be easier if I weren’t, my wife (raised in a Quaker Meeting, graduate of a Quaker college) would be happier to start with. [my birth-family thought that I was strange] But I don’t really have a choice – only whether to be a faithful Quaker, or an unfaithful one, and most of the time it’s the latter: but occasionally (this being one) I have the opportunity to speak Truth and let it go where it will. In this, I have been faithful and there is nothing more to say.

  6. “Did our hearts not leapt for joy”.. Spiritual Consolation experience of George Fox, 2 disciples who later realised in belief and discerned that they had walked and heard the explanations of the Risen Jesus @Emmaus, Margaret Fell’s life changing experience of spiritual gift of tears when she heard George Fox speak and realised “We are all thieves” (as Christ CLEANSING THE TEMPLE central to the Jewish Old Teastament Worship : My Father / Daddy or Abba’s house of prayer… yet ye have made it into a den of thieves.. buying and selling almost 2000 years earlier!! )

  7. Wonderful to hear about his “unlearning” process. I´m a Unitarian Universalist Christian who loves Quaker Friendism as a major influence. In the interfaith seeking process that I went through for years and years, I started early having my love of Science, as well. Thus, the materialistic lawful aspect of reality was always an important feature. In understanding God, then, my study of St. Thomas of Aquinas turned up his embracing the notion that God created the Laws of Nature, which need to be studied. As a result, the importance of personal effort and spiritual growth training also gets highlighted, as does Christian spiritual basis of modern education. Those instructions are present in Jesus´ teachings, and I heard them early in life before I approached Christianity formally, “Seek first the Kingdom of God” and “Take the plank out of your own eye…,” and one I was delighted to discover only as I engaged with Christianity formally “God will teach. Those who listen and learn will arrive in me (Jesus).”

    Thus, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient as qualities of God is never about God as a human perfectionist and finger-wagger. It is his cause and effect Universe that responds as we grow in our spiritual growth training and modern education. I also benefited from my first major Christian denominational education in Christian Science. It emphasizes God´s presence and power in absolute qualities not least of which is Love, which when incorporated into a person´s understanding of God through Jesus then asserts the reality of God. That´s a powerful faith that I regularly reflect on. After all, overcoming the impacts of a difficult world require us as individuals in communities to take action, and not just acquiesce.

  8. If you asked me, I’d say: Yes! To me God still seems all-knowing and all-powerful. The question “Why doesn’t God stop tragedy?” (often posed as proof of God’s non-existence) just never resonated with me. When I was young, my argument leaned on an understanding that among God’s greatest gifts to humans was free will (probably taught to me) and (my own reasoning) that God was keeping God’s end of the bargain by not butting-in too much. Now at 68, I’d add this: It’s not easy to correctly identify life’s events as they come at us. Life makes a lot more sense when you start looking back on it… The Tragedy and Suffering of this life–seen from a different perspective–may be Great Challenges or Opportunities. The kind of stuff you wouldn’t want to miss! And just the things likely to make you call out for God’s help!!!

  9. Prayer, praying to God -perhaps thats one area I need some unlearning. Do I have to pray/commit everything to God because God does really respond and intervene beyond myself or is it because praying has spiritual intellectual psychological effect on me which enables me to bring about the changes I’m praying about?

  10. “Phil Gulley says that we must first unlearn some of what we’ve been taught about God.”
    As an exercise, this seems incomplete.
    Why just some and not all?

    Phil’s fundamental ‘unlearnings’ are
    1) There is no ‘true’ church.
    2) God is not omipotent, omniscient, omnipresent.

    I am good with those two – let’s try
    3) There is no god

    Look – the world did not stop.

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