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Weekend freedom question: A higher power

What role does a higher power play in helping you cherish and preserve (or restore) your freedom?

A higher power here could mean anything from the Christian god or other religious tradition to a less-defined sense that you might call spiritual striving, if that striving seems to be from or for something outside yourself.

30 Comments

  1. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty June 30, 2013 6:27 am

    Very interesting question, and one I’ve spent some real time thinking about. I’ve gone from being a nearly lifelong devoted Christian to something approaching agnostic these days. After many years of study, I reject all organized religion for myself now, but can’t get past the presence of something or someone that is external to me and very powerful, whether benevolent or not.

    The age old question of the universe and life, where or how it began, where it’s going, what happens after… too much for me to contemplate more than fragments now and then.

    Self ownership, self responsibility, liberty… these things are a part of being human. If they were not, we would not know or understand them any more than does a rock. They are the best of being human, as far as I’m concerned. I think this is directly related to “the presence,” but I have no proof beyond my own feelings and life choices.

  2. Keith Perkins
    Keith Perkins June 30, 2013 6:40 am

    Zero

  3. Woody
    Woody June 30, 2013 7:13 am

    As a child and through high school I had a lot of formal religious education/indoctrination. By 10th grade I was having doubts centered around some of the more obvious contradictions I was being asked to swallow. By the time I was ready to graduate I was the biggest pain in the ass my teachers had ever encountered, mostly because I would not accept dogma that had no evidence to support it.

    Now I am old and convinced that there are some things that are unknowable. When someone asks a believer “How did the universe come to be?” They will usually respond with a made up story, usually gleaned from some holy text. Ask an atheist the same question and s/he is likely to respond, “I have no idea.”

    Is there a higher power? I have no idea but from the evidence I’ve seen so far it doesn’t seem likely.

    Also, since “There are no atheists in fox holes” apparently the horrors of war are perpetrated solely by religionists. That’s a demographic I’m proud not to be a part of.

  4. Joel
    Joel June 30, 2013 7:13 am

    Like ML, I gave Christianity a try for quite a while. Came to the conclusion that if I had a human boss who behaved like the Christian God, I’d quit. So I did. On the matter of divine powers I’m completely agnostic. I don’t know, and I care less every year.

    I do have personal standards, which go considerably beyond standards of outward behavior. But I can’t think of any way that they’re ‘from or for something outside myself,’ except inasmuch as they involve my dealings with other people. So I guess in that sense I have to go with Keith. Zero.

  5. Philalethes
    Philalethes June 30, 2013 7:14 am

    “The happiness of being absolutely free is beyond description.” – Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

  6. Kevin 3%
    Kevin 3% June 30, 2013 7:30 am

    A good read related to this is;
    MYTHS TO LIVE BY
    by Joseph Campbell.

    I think dogma is what kills religious belief for a lot of people and hypocrisy for many others. The combination of both caused me to reject religion but not spirituality. Each of us must find what works for our lives. Blind adherence to dogma is a fools errand and usually results in some of the worst forms or ignorance.
    I think the Deists were on to something. That is to say, the recognition that there must be a higher power, but it has nothing to do with our day to day lives.

  7. Pat
    Pat June 30, 2013 9:03 am

    No higher power is involved regarding my freedom – why I cherish it, or how to preserve it.
    There WAS a ‘higher power’ involved at one time while establishing my value system and the ethics that helped me define freedom, and how to interact in society.

    I’ve traveled from formal religion as a kid to atheist as an adult, and during that conversion have picked up tenets from several philosophies (including religions) to bring me to my current “state of grace” (or un-grace, as some others view it). I’m comfortable with the “belief” that spirituality comes from the soul, and “the soul” is nothing more or less than AWARENESS – that part of the human brain that gives us the power to comprehend the world, and make our own decisions in responsible fashion.

  8. water lily
    water lily June 30, 2013 9:12 am

    I’m a Christian and I’m fairly quiet about my faith. I’m not into any type of organized religion, but I do follow Christ and his teachings. I don’t engage in religious arguments, I don’t put down what others believe, and I don’t demand that people agree with me.

    Most who say that they are Christians don’t have a clue about what that really means. Unfortunately people like the “religious right” are the stereotypical poster children for what passes for all of Christianity these days. Not all of us are like them. Not all of us think that a theocracy is cool. Hardly. If anyone is interested, there’s a few good articles on the site libertarianchristians.com that speak much more eloquently than I on the subject.

    So to answer your question:

    I believe that our natural rights come from God, and that the non-aggression principle lines up with Christ’s teachings.

    Most governments, by their very existence, violate Christian principles because they seek to put themselves between a believer and God, and seek to remove God-given natural rights in order to obtain power. Man is not capable of governing others, because power corrupts.

    When a government violates my basic Christian principles, the right thing to do is to disobey and try to restore my natural right to freedom. (Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God – Jefferson.)

    So for me, my faith is a big part of who I am and why I cherish freedom.

  9. Kevin 3%
    Kevin 3% June 30, 2013 9:54 am

    Something for Christians and non-Christians alike to consider:
    Socrates and Christ, two men who never wrote a book, but had copious numbers of books written about them. Both men spoke directly about the nature of power and its corrupting influences. Both were sentenced to death by the state.

  10. Ken Hagler
    Ken Hagler June 30, 2013 10:43 am

    None, I’m an atheist. I consider groveling before invisible sky monsters to be antithetical to cherishing freedom.

  11. Awtha
    Awtha June 30, 2013 11:28 am

    When I read this today I couldn’t help but think of the words of Franz Werfel, (a Austrian-Bohemian poet) “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.” I read some time ago “Let God once wound a heart, all the world cannot heal it, but let Jesus Christ speak peace to it, all the world cannot destroy it” (In reference to John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.) Jesus said ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (John 8:32-36) That said, as cherished as our constitution is to our minds; “We hold these truths to be self-evident . . . that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. . . . . etc. Endow: give or bequeath an income or property to (a person or institution) • establish by donating the funds needed to maintain it. • Provide with a quality, ability, or asset. Unalienable: unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor. “IF” ones freedoms are establish by a creator whose donations are needed to maintain it, one might ask why has it stopped? Freedom is more inward than outward. Yet our Declaration of Independence teaches us that there is a time for separation . . . .

  12. Jim Klein
    Jim Klein June 30, 2013 11:38 am

    I never understood the connection. Virtually all religions, and surely all Western religions, recognize each person as a free-willed volitional creature. So with or without the assumption of any “higher power”–a misnomer itself technically–each individual’s actions fall on nobody but the individual.

    I can see wondering about any judging after we die, but I can’t see the question having any relevance while we’re alive here on Earth. About the only important point I can discern is that the answer to the question, “For who’s sake should I engage the proper action,” is always, “not anyone but yourself,” with or without any God. After all, who’s the only person who technically gains (or suffers) from the doing of any action, leaving out the benefits or harm of the products of the action?

    My brother uses the common argument, “If there’s no God but I believe in One, then no harm done; but if there is a God and I don’t believe in One, then I’m screwed. Hence, it’s safer and wiser to believe in a God.” I always wondered how a Just God would treat someone who remained faithful over an entire lifetime, for that particular reason.

  13. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal June 30, 2013 1:00 pm

    I have been called a spiritual atheist by people who know me. I’m not sure if that’s complementary or not.

    I don’t know that I would consider it a “higher power”, but my conscience pushes me to live by the Zero Aggression Principle, and to not steal or damage the property of others. I can figure out for myself that it is wrong because of how it would affect me to have someone else do it to me.

    If you are “good” only because you feel someone is watching over your shoulder, then you are not really good at all.

    And, Jim Klein, if your brother believes in god in order to “win” Pascal’s Wager, how do you think an aware god would view that? And, what if he wastes his belief by believing his whole life in the wrong god, or by believing in the “wrong” way?

  14. Jim Klein
    Jim Klein June 30, 2013 1:22 pm

    “I have been called a spiritual atheist…”

    Ha. I call myself a “devout atheist.” Maybe we can get together and get some extra tax exemptions.

    Yes, that was my point about my brother; somehow I don’t think the classic religion-type God would look very kindly on that particular reason for one’s faith.

    Though I have to add–and maybe you know I value identification above nearly all else–that being right, socially anyway, is generally overrated. It’s a great thing–maybe the greatest–with regard to serving one’s own existence in a tough world, but trying to get others to see the truth often doesn’t serve oneself, and commonly fails in its purpose anyway. No newsflash for you there, I know.

  15. Jim B.
    Jim B. June 30, 2013 3:26 pm

    I’m not at all religious, but two things from the bible has stuck with me for as long as I can remember. Free Will and “He that hath not a sword, let him sell his garment and obtain one”.

    Many may say that God’s greatest gift is his love. That may be so, because I consider the most important gift he given us is Free Will. The ability to make our own decisions and act on them.

    As for the obtaining a sword, obviously Jesus (and some would say God) actually considered having the means for self-defense to be important.

  16. naturegirl
    naturegirl June 30, 2013 3:59 pm

    I was raised in a religious environment. Then living life made that change. So much evil that exists in the world. I refer to my spiritual awareness more as “Logic”, now a days. I think all successes, failures and progress fall on me; not some higher power. And I tend to see things from a rather selfish prospective: I don’t do to others what I wouldn’t want done to me. Simply put, yet encompasses so many areas.

    We’re here to make the best life we can. By our own standards or desires. We are our “higher powers.” Or lower powers, if that’s the way some choose to live.

  17. Roger
    Roger June 30, 2013 5:07 pm

    According to conventional Christian belief god gave humanity free will. That means the bad stuff is down to us. So is the good!
    Does god exist? I have no idea however most of the new testement gives quite good advice on how to live your life without hurting others. The one thing that is certain is that were Jesus alive today the CofE and the Catholic church would be a whole lot poorer and humble!
    Either way it doesn’t really matter. If you live a good life because you have a conciense you’re a shoo in for getting past the pearly gates anyhow, if not you will sink into the inky blackness at least knowing that you treated your fellow man decently.

  18. Salem
    Salem June 30, 2013 5:44 pm

    Religion = Ritual and repetition
    Spiritual = having a connection to the unseen.

    Real Christianity is spiritual. It is about good news. It is so simple, you will remember that during Jesus’ life, the fishermen got it, and the religious professionals who studied the scrolls all day did not. They, not the government, arranged to have this free-wheeling “Hippie” executed as a threat to their influence and control over the masses. The Romans were simply their tool to do it.

    Jesus told the Roman governor: ” My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over . . . ” By inference, then, we can assume those who are “fighting” for control of this world in the back rooms of politics today are not doing His work, but their own. The religious professionals who love to control and influence the masses are still with us.

    The good news is that all I have ever done wrong, or ever will do wrong, is ended at the Cross if I will put my confidence in it. Any good that I now do is because I already have a place in that ‘not of this world’ kingdom, given to me as a gift. I do not do good in a feeble attempt to earn a place there. My ‘daily felonies’ would surely keep me out if I were to stand on my own record.

    So since I have begun the process of transcendence into the spiritual kingdom, it makes little difference in this temporary life whether Hitler or Gandhi leads us. Whether I happen to live prosperously or am persecuted, I understand that is is temporary, and there is no need to get stressed or depressed about mere events.

  19. Betsey
    Betsey June 30, 2013 6:07 pm

    Ghandi once said (paraphrased) that he liked this Jesus Christ but did not like these Christians. I tend to agree.
    I have found that if I live my life according to the Ten Commandments and the greatest commandment of all “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” it works for me. I study the Bible, go to church, and hang out with a lot of Christians.
    But I bristled at Bible study the other night when our leader said we have to respect our leaders (which she claimed was Biblical based on David’s refusal to defend himself against Saul) and another person piped in to say if I did not like our current president, I am a racist. When I asked her to define racist, she could not. I am finding churches today to be exactly the opposite of how I grew up, more emphasis on “social justice” and “God’s love” rather than “behave yourself” and “there are limits on behavior.” Hmm.
    I will not gived up on church because I love the music, but I find troubling items in the Presbyterian rules of order.
    I use what works for me.

    Gandhi once said trhat he liked this Jesus Christ but didn’t like these Christians very much.

  20. gooch
    gooch June 30, 2013 7:45 pm

    I’m one of the “Zero” group.

  21. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember June 30, 2013 8:48 pm

    Several people each walk out of their own house built for them and say there’s no such thing as carpenters.

    Another person walks out of a house and is thankful the carpenter did such a good job. Flaws and all.

    All the houses need repair.
    The carpenter comes over and fixes it, if he’s asked to, and he wants to.
    Or maybe the carpenter thinks the home owner should do the job?
    Or maybe the carpenter helps out the home owner?

    Ya, free will.

  22. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember June 30, 2013 9:27 pm

    The toughest spot is when the carpenter thinks the home owner needs to learn a particular thing before the repair takes place. Doubt, and all kinds of similar things, tends to creep in then.

    Or, possibly, the carpenter thinks the whole house just needs to be burned to the ground?

    Free will is funny that way.

  23. Graystone
    Graystone June 30, 2013 10:26 pm

    Life has not been easy, but I’m a believer. That being said, I’ve know church-going Christians that I wouldn’t turn my back on, and people that profess no religious beliefs at all that I would trust with my life. God is not rude, and will not force his way into your life; you have to invite Him in. I don’t believe the existence of God can ever be debated from an intellectual perspective. It’s all about faith.

  24. A.G.
    A.G. June 30, 2013 10:51 pm

    When the word “freedom” comes up, I no longer primarily think of the political/legal/whatever state of being in which “I have the ability to do whatever I want, as long as I don’t hurt someone else”.
    For me today the word “freedom” means I am no longer bound to the self destructive nature that I once had, the one which threatened to steal and destroy everything I cherish most, and damage a lot of others in the process. Those evil spiritual chains have been broken, and I now have TRUE free will- the choice to NOT sin, as given to me by Jesus Christ.
    I believe that the spiritual condition of freedom is a prerequisite to the political one, and as long as people worship the state (and/or other false gods) then they will live in bondage to harsh masters.
    From what I have read most of the founding fathers seemed to agree, as did Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

  25. Kevin Wilmeth
    Kevin Wilmeth June 30, 2013 11:01 pm

    I don’t know about “higher power”, but then I’m not really interested in looking for one, either. In surveying the usual universe of organized belief systems, the only one that had any sort of lasting appeal to me was Taoism–mostly because of its deep interest in getting the hell out of the way and letting things be just what they are. (A great idea, and it fits me because I’m looking for ideas, not guidance.)

    I am, however, a firm believer in the idea of something beyond our selves, that exists all the time and everywhere, that we can sometimes tap into. I suspect that there actually may be many of these, but the one that I am most familiar with happens with music. When I quip that politics is the lowest form of human expression and music is the highest, I’m not just picking a subject out of a hat–although on the other hand, that particular juxtaposition may be damning with faint praise 🙂

    Seriously though, I have seen and experienced things with music, both by myself and with others, that leave no doubt in my mind that there is something “beyond”, already there, available to tap into, sometimes, if you don’t chase it away with the usual assortment of the banal. Call this what you want, it doesn’t need a name, but it is there.

    What role does this play for my freedom? Hell, in a very real sense, that is freedom. That’s what all this effort to protect and nurture is for. To tap into something that not only doesn’t take the life out of you, but actually gives it back. (In gigantic pumps that can be nearly overwhelming.)

    Lots of folks give me the “crazy mystic” vibe over all this, and that’s fine. I’m not in it for acceptance–just the juice. 🙂

  26. water lily
    water lily July 1, 2013 9:13 am

    I remind folks often that there were two times Jesus showed anger: at the Pharisees (organized religion) and at the money changers (bankers)

    🙂

  27. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau July 1, 2013 9:51 am

    The only higher power I recognize is nature, and that, as far as I can tell, is a nonsentient one. Anyway nature is “content” with all sorts of things we humans would regard with horror so I doubt there is anything there friendly to liberty. Nature does not care if I am free or enslaved.

    So the answer to your question for me is, not at all. My drive for freedom is entirely a matter of will.

    Of course I and my will are products of nature too, so maybe that is the connection. I was going to say that it’s a positive survival characteristic to be free, but this is questionable. Liberty generates wealth and wealth generates dissipation for very many people. But getting free from a condition of enslavement, and rising up from poverty DOES seem to be very positive for people, and increase their chance for survival and passing on their genes and memes, which is what nature is concerned with.

    I guess I don’t know. I don’t worry too much about it either way.

  28. Jacques
    Jacques July 1, 2013 4:23 pm

    “The Ancient”

    “Come – show me the Way, for I will know Thy secrets, Mysteries of
    the Beginning, the Causation of All, the Reason for all, the
    existence of the Gods, and their nature.”

    This I asked of the Ancient.

    With steady eye he did gaze upon me – and – for the briefest moment
    – I sensed a bitter mockery within his stare.

    His countenance changed; a moment before it was of flesh lined with
    stone, now it was one of almost soft forgiveness.

    “No”, he said, simply “No.” “You know not for what you ask. And in
    knowing, would refuse to believe the truth of what is.”

    I felt betrayed – betrayed by his denial – and spake in anger – “You
    will not give me your wisdom for you hath none to give. Your refusal
    merely hides your ignorance.”

    There was no malice in his look at me – no distress over the words I
    just spoke. They caused him no pain – no discomfort.

    “You seek that which is not. You would grasp the Eons and chain the
    tides. Ye understand not, that is all. If you truly understood, then
    such as you ask would seem as vapors against the wind – etheric
    musings of a fitful sleep.”

    I turned in wrath at this Ancient, thinking to look elsewhere, but
    then stayed myself – just for a moment – to ask a last time.

    “Then tell me – if you can – Know ye the answers or Know ye not?”

    “I do,” was the saddened reply. “I wish I did not.”

    “Then Speak, Old One – for your silence utters lies.”

    He trembled but the slightest, and looked to weep – but did not.

    “Foolish Mortal”, he barely sighed. “Foolish, foolish mortal. Yes
    then, stand and hear – then depart with the Truth – which you shall
    evermore wear as a leaden cope of helplessness.”

    Fascinated – I stood transfixed – awaiting his reply – words that
    would rip the fabric of illusion that bound me to my hunger for
    knowledge – words that would gift me if not peace then respite.

    The Ancient One spoke.

    ” The Gods ye seek – exist not. They have no nature – for they are
    not. The Beginning was itself – Causation of Itself – for Itself –
    and for no other purpose. Not for the pleasure of any imagined
    Deities. The Reason for All is the same – Reason begetting Itself.

    “You wish to bend knee before a Power, to humble yourself at the feet
    of a Presence – to acknowledge a dependence upon a Higher One. Do
    so, if it gives some pleasure – some comfort. But know that you now
    do so not through ignorance but fear.

    “Fear of Yourself – for you are your own Cause – your own Beginning – your own Reason – your own God. You created yourself – for whatever purpose you choose.

    “Prostrate then before Yourself and you prostrate before God.

    “You walk alone, Foolish One, throughout all the Eternities – always You.
    As lonely as your previous deceived notion of God – for you are He.
    Turn, now and walk – alone – and forever.”

    And as I, shocked and quaking, saw him go, he spoke thus:

    “Even as I must do – Forever. For knowledge has made you free, and
    thus now a Slave to your own Immortal Being.”

  29. Pat
    Pat July 2, 2013 7:13 am

    From the above:
    “ “Turn, now and walk – alone – and forever….
    “Even as I must do – Forever. For knowledge has made you free, and
    thus now a Slave to your own Immortal Being.” ”

    So we (Adam and Eve onward) chose to make ourselves a slave to Others, instead of to Gods. And this is why we bow down to leaders, tyrants, and potentates.

  30. Mark
    Mark July 2, 2013 9:54 am

    My Christian beliefs (I was not raised in a religious home) inform and led me to my libertarian beliefs 100%. There are many aspects to this, but one that is most germane was realizing that my conservative friends’ arguments that we needed to “return to a Christian nation” would only be a form of tyranny, foisting our religious beliefs on others and no different than Sharia law. This line of thinking, coupled with the belief that every person created in God’s image has individual value and must stand before Him individually as well, let me to the position that we could not make moral people even with “moral” laws.

    I infrequently break with other libertarians I know about law (abortion being an exception, since I see abortion as the taking of one person’s life to satisfy the desires of another). More often I break with fellow Christians whether politically conservative (e.g., the government has no business telling ANY of us what kind of contractual arrangements we can make freely and therefore am against outlawing gay marriage as well as prohibiting the government from involvement in any marriage arrangements) or liberal (“social justice” laws are nothing more than legitimized theft of one persons goods by another with the government as the middleman).

    I have lately come to see a form of self-rule as God’s original design for Israel, at the time of the judges. There was no king and everyone “did what was right in his eyes” and the judges were there to, among other things, settle disputes. Certainly there was a common moral element in their role at the time, but there was not a central authority imposing his will on the people. God even argued with them against having a king.

    Lastly, for any who think that the evidence is against Christ (and I agree that we Christians are probably the strongest argument against Christianity), I submit for the consideration of the open minded Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case for Christ.” Strobel, an award winning investigative journalist, was an atheist when he set out to investigate the factual case for Christianity with an eye toward debunking it.

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