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How do you define "God" without religion?

Discussion in 'Religion and Lighthearted Discussion' started by TBradyOwnsYou, Oct 5, 2012.

  1. TBradyOwnsYou

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    I recently had a discussion with a friend who has studied multiple religions, HATES organized religion, yet claims to KNOW that God exists. He can't define what that God is, or why he knows it (and he admits it sounds silly) so I figured I'd throw that out and see if there is anyone else with similar views who could help him describe it.

    I personally think that it's just his leftover indoctrination from his upbringing in organized religion and when he cast it off, he kept this small nugget with him to give him comfort. I believe his inability to define or explain it is a psychological defense mechanism to prevent his logical mind from removing that last hook of comfortable delusion that would cast him away into the chasm of the unknown which he was raised to be fearful of.

    What say you?
  2. RI Patriots fan

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    Like most people who claim to be "spiritual" but don't follow an organized religion, they create a God in their own image who requires nothing of them outside of following their own feelings and desires.
  3. PatsFanLisa

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    I don't believe people who are spiritual create any image, or at least some of them don't.

    But just out of curiosity, what image is there of god? Wouldn't that just be an image that YOU created, much like what you are saying people without religion create an image of themselves

    BTW, you needn't put air quotes around spiritual. There is something that is actually called spirituality that doesn't necessarily need religion attached to it.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2012
  4. Rossmci90

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    There are a number of people who are outside of organised religion who believe in a "non-personal God". A sort of entity who does not effect the daily lives of people, but created the Universe.
  5. RI Patriots fan

    RI Patriots fan Rookie

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    Yup, I understand that....there are lots of belief systems out there.

    But the question is, why do they believe what they believe?
  6. everlong

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    #12 Jersey

    I think you changed the argument of the other poster who said many people don't believe in a personalized god which you stressed.

    Answering why do people chose a different religion is very personal and complexed. All Catholics aren't Catholics for the same reason.

    To the original poster yes your theory is possible as to why he feels this way but it's also possible he just feels a connection to the universe on a more scientific scale.

    Religious views of Albert Einstein - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Baruch Spinoza - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  7. RI Patriots fan

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    Please explain to me how someone feels a connection to the universe on a scientific scale?? What exactly does that mean?

    Yes, Catholics choose to be Catholics for many different reasons. But if those reasons don't facilitate a true faith initiated by grace, then I dont see the value of such a belief system.
  8. TBradyOwnsYou

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    I asked if he meant a creator, to which he replied "I don't know."

    The more I asked for specifics about this god, he would say no or I don't know to them all, yet still said he KNEW God existed.

    I guess it's likely just the semantics that trip me up as everything he says makes him sound like a flavor of agnostic, yet he is steadfast about "knowing" that God exists which I can't understand without a definition of some sort.

    He also has extreme trouble viewing atheism as anything but a belief system (which it is exactly not) which again leads me to believe it's a leftover from his prior religiosity.
  9. PatsFanLisa

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    So, in other words, if Catholics don't follow the Golden Rules that you follow, then they're really not good Catholics?

    Just because someone doesn't believe or follow strictly in the same way that, say, you might does not make them any less of a Catholic. Just because YOU don't see the value of their belief system does not make them any less of a Catholic.

    And just so we're clear here, what you don't value as a good enough belief system really doesn't matter. Right? What matters is how that person interprets, adheres to, and believes for his own faith in his Catholicism.
  10. everlong

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    #12 Jersey

    It means they feel that everything in the universe is connected and many people feel quantum physics and string theory justify this.

    You want keep changing the topic. You asked why people chose those paths and I think that's very individual in choice and thus the reasoning is very diversified. I don't think a choice has to be initiated by Grace. That's a very dogmatic way of thinking at least in my interpretation.
  11. everlong

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    #12 Jersey

    Because of life experiences it's possible to believe in some sort of afterlife and higher intelligence but also believe that man is incapable of understand what it is and that all the man made religions are BS.
  12. RI Patriots fan

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    How specifically is everything in the universe connected and how exactly does that affect me?

    I think I answered your question from a Catholic perspective. The Catholic church clearly teachs that our choices that bring us to God are initiated by grace and ultimately our salvation is absolutely and completely reliant on grace. If I'm a Catholic and I deny grace then I'm denying my faith. So ultimately there is only one way to come to true Catholicism and that is by grace.

    Dogmatic??? Of course....the Catholic church is a dogmatic institution.
  13. Wolfpack

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    Despite what John Kerry says, the Catholic Church is not a cafeteria. There are certains tenets so fundamental to Catholicism that yes, I gladly will say someone is not a good Catholic if they don't share those beliefs.

    If someone says "I'm Catholic, but I don't believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God" then sorry, but I'm going to say that person isn't really a good Catholic. (Don't get me wrong; they quite likely will still be a good person, just not a good Catholic.)
  14. Mrs.PatsFanInVa

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    But the original question was about God's existance in general - not about what the Catholic Church thinks or how to arrive at true Catholicism.

    Many people believe in God - they are certainly not all Catholics. Nor are their beliefs to be dismissed.
  15. RI Patriots fan

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    Yes, I understand what the original question was in this thread. I was answering another poster who was relating it to Catholicism.
  16. PatsFanInVa

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    First of all, if you can define God, you're shooting too low. If you believe, when you talk about God, you're talking about a definite construct that he must by definition exceed. Let's be scientific, and talk about what's not in dispute, the physical universe. We can describe its immense total size numerically. We can even believe that the model we hold in our minds approximates the truth of that vastness. Similarly we can talk about all the empty space in an atom, and make up metaphors about a ball bearing in Los Angeles and a basketball in Wembley stadium, or whatevah, but we can't truly grok the truth that we scientifically know -- that a block of lead is well more than 99% empty space.

    How many stars are there? You can say a number - really an abstraction of the numbers you can name, that is, a number to the power of another number. You can say what you know of the classifications of stars. How do you get a star? You can talk about enough hydrogen gathering together that the gravity crushes it down raising its temperature and pressure until nuclear fusion happens.

    Have you ever seen, can you ever actually imagine, gas in such a volume that it's exerting gravity at all, in any noticeable way?

    No, but you'd notice its absence. I'm digressing, not setting up a proof or a metaphor. That's not the point.

    The point is more that we have only one language to really talk about these scales, and that's mathematics. Even at that, we're only describing, we're not talking about the thing itself, but an abstraction of the thing. There would not be enough room in your head to know the detail of every partical, not enough neural pathways to know them. We know the model. The map is not the land.

    We'd get into theist/agnostic or atheist disagreement were I to posit that the sum of the Universe does not contain the sum of divinity. In fact, were I to so posit, I'm not certain I'd understand what I was saying.

    However, even taking the sum of all that is as God, and imbuing it with organization, even including the law that dictates entropy, were I to say "I will now define God," I would be lying. Similarly, were I even to try the mundane task of defining the universe, I would be lying, strictly speaking. I would be describing the current state of knowledge about a model. in fact, at the quantuum scale, one rule is you can't know.

    For him to try to convince you with a "definition" would be bullcrap. But for you to try to ridicule him for the lack of one is similarly ridiculous. For the believer, you don't define God. You don't have the processing power to do it. For the unbeliever, you can snicker for the lack of a definition, all the while accepting a simplistic model for all you do claim to know.

    I've been described hereabouts as a "heritage Jew," meaning I grew up in Judaism but I'm not observant. They're right, so far as their definition goes. However, the most central confessional formula of my faith (as pronounced) is shema yisroel, adonai Elohanu, adonai ehud. "Hear, O Israel, the lord our God, the lord is One."

    My little model is this: If the lord is One, nothing's outside him but by process of purposeful separation, that is, creation. I agree with the Kabbalists though that the separation is never absolute (their metaphor is that there's a spark of the divine everywhere.) I suspect though that the entirety is too anthrocentric, and that the separation is, in fact illusion. I've fallen into a bit of a pantheistic heresy I'm afraid, with a conscious (for want of a better word) and living (for want of a better word) cosmos.

    We've decided we have a universe that came into being somewhere just south of fourteen billion years ago. Then we get to a couple of those mysteries you can only get your head around if you're a math geek, to wit:

    1) strictly speaking there was nothing before the big bang, because time was created by the big bang, along with space, stuff, and energy. Don't get it. Supposed to be true. Your brain's not designed to understand that time started -- time's not supposed to be an actual thing, it's the order of things. But that's what the Discovery Channel says.

    2) Ya get something for nothing. Or to be more precise, you get everything for nothing. But it's okay, because it's balanced by a bunch of negative energy or somesuch generated simultaneously.

    But then you can posit that universes, plural, pop in and out of existence all the time, which makes the "uni" part sound a bit silly.

    So, I need a word for "the whole shootin' match" - a conscious, living, shootin' match that we stand in relation to as a miniscule cell to an enormous -- astronomically enormous -- body.

    So I don't think about a being outside of the natural order with a consciousness approximating human consciousness. I think more of a mindful and connected universe. I have no real understanding of "the big thought," but I feel we're not its object, but parts of it.

    This stuff is just the primitive model, the lie I tell because it's the closest lie to the truth, and it's challenging to me to try to explain it. I can tell you about the "moving parts" or give you if/then statements, I can tell you whatever you like. I'll get it wrong. It will be clunky and partial, and it will be words about things neither of us "get."

    You can answer with other words, and you can explain that a model can be built without such a mindful universe (or multiverse if we have to put it that way, though I believe in a uniGod.)

    In the end, however, you'll ask for proof, and I will be happy to say go fish. I could play that silly game, but it would come down to "I like my models built that way." The same would be true for you. You would explain to me that a scientific understanding of nature demands an objective analysis that does not posit subjective unprovable beings (or properties of known forces and particles.) But I'd ask you: how do you objectively describe the subjective?

    And in the final analysis, that is all that such an understanding of God posits: that the subjective does, in fact, exist. You could disprove the subjectivity of the various individuals typing in this forum by the same means as disproving the subjective life of all that is. However, you still posit those subjective other minds.

    You can list the proofs of other subjective consciousnesses, but they are pretty weak and could easily be supplied by fooling the senses (the old brain-in-a-jar thing, lately updated to the Matrix and all that.)

    Similarly, you can say there's no real benefit to believing any higher orders of consciousness. The same applies. This is what's evident to me, but I cannot make it evident to you.

    PFnV
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2012
  17. PatsFanInVa

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    By the way, you are correct: Atheism's not a belief system. He's being a jerk. :)

    PFnV
  18. Leave No Doubt

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    Well said.
  19. Leave No Doubt

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    I say (given your "diagnosis" I assume you're a psychologist/psychiatrist/counselor qualified to draw these conclusions):

    I find it interesting that his belief in God signifies some sort of mental malfunction to you. Nothing a few years on a couch wouldn't cure no doubt ;).

    Conversely,choosing NOT to believe in God has been construed by some to signify a fear of someday having to face your own demons; thought-provoking concept, I wonder if there's any truth to it.

    Interesting thread, thanks! I don't usually read this forum much, but lately God/religion/spirituality has become mainstream conversation, I find a lot of people are talking about God vs religion lately which I think is cool. Real deep stuff, if they can stay away from being reactionary that is.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2012
  20. everlong

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    #12 Jersey

    That's what I was getting at. You're approaching this from a dogmatic and in this case Catholic perspective. I was raised Catholic so I understand the perspective but my point it not everybody is inclined to that way of thinking.

    If everything in the universe is connected everything affects you. Just like the many flavors of Christianity there's equally numerous theories. Some believe everything has a soul. Not just you and I but a single blade of grass and that we are all connected in the energy of the universe. Others believe this is one of many existences for our souls and for every choice there's a different version of us living a life that teaches our souls lessons. This isn't a Catholic version where answers are simple and black and white. I'm not saying that in a better or worse way, just different.
  21. TBradyOwnsYou

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    Thanks for the input! One of my favorite quotes goes something like: "The only thing I know for sure is that I know nothing at all."

    If I were to tell you that I KNOW Schrödinger's cat was alive, but couldn't explain to you my definition of life, I would expect my certainty to be questioned.

    I've never met someone to profess such certainty without being able to explain what they are certain about.

    If he said something like "I don't know, but I feel/think/believe/etc..." then I would be far less concerned about the particulars of that belief.

    Or, if he would've said "I know there is something, but I can't explain it" the implied ambiguity of the word something would also leave the anal retentive part of me at ease.

    When you say you know there is a mountain in California, it makes sense to me because I also know there are mountains in California. If you say you know there is a mountain in North Dakota, I then must question your definition of mountain, because obviously we aren't seeing it the same.

    I'm not implying he is right or wrong in his belief, I just want to better understand what he means so I can at least understand it, if not necessarily agree with it.

    The word God carries significant historical baggage in regards to its definition and how it is perceived when used in a sentence. To use the word God, yet remove all commonly agreed upon context from it makes me feel as though it is a poor choice of word to use in this instance (which is why my assumptions on the origin of his beliefs point towards his childhood religious experiences).

    Then I thought, how does one define a God, without using a religion?
  22. TBradyOwnsYou

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    1) I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. ;)

    2) It technically is a malfunction. Belief in that which has no rational basis or observable evidence is not how our brains naturally function.

    3) Everyone ever born started their life not believing in a God nor having a concept of what a God is. It is the default position.

    4) Agreed! Contrary to popular belief, having a religious or political conversation with someone who doesn't share your beliefs can be extremely satisfying and beneficial. Only when one or both parties fear changing their own belief system does the conversation break down and become counterproductive. Unfortunately, political parties and religions NEED membership to remain relevant so it is to their own benefit to create zealots instead of freethinkers.
  23. Leave No Doubt

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    I think #2 is false :D but it's sort of another topic. Maybe not I don't know.

    #3- assuming you're right that we are born with no belief in or concept of God (and I say 'assuming' because there's a lot of ongoing research on the existence of what they're calling "genetic memory". Real interesting stuff.) then I agree it's the default position. Definitely anything we do learn of God is external and learned over time, but we also have free will and the ability to make choices by a certain age. We all make decisions based on that but also based on our own experiences along the way, no?

    Maybe then, just as some people choose to NOT believe in God, some choose TO believe in God, and both have their own reasons for doing so. I don't believe either belief is a "malady", I just think people choose different ways of looking at things and we need to let people do just that, without calling them mental deficients lol ;)

    Not every part of our brain is designed for rational thinking, not everything is purely evidence-based. Our perceptions also have roots in our personal experiences. We develop a 'gut feeling" and that's not just based on rationality and logic. We are born with senses as well as "defaults" lol. Most of us use both when we make life choices, so my diagnosis is that you're friend's just fine:p

    The bottom line is- the only ones who really know the truth are the dead.
    All the rest of us can do is live our lives the best way we know how, stay true to ourselves, and try to be decent and caring people.

    If someone doesn't believe in God then they can't believe in evil, or so it's said.

    Can someone not believe in God and still believe in the existence of a soul, my guess is no?
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2012
  24. TBradyOwnsYou

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    @PatsFanInVA

    Does God Have a Future? NightLine DEBATE FULL - YouTube

    ^This video (hour and a half) hits close to (I think) what you might have been going for (a la Deepak). Not quite, but similar at least. Sam also hits my points far better than I ever could.

    @LND

    Sam Harris on "Free Will" - YouTube

    ^This video (hour and 20 minutes) is a great video on free will. I find it interesting (though I am also a nerd, ha!).

    Per choice in believing in God: My position is, one cannot believe in a true God in a vaccuum. The belief must be introduced externally. (though since I don't have the power or time to test this properly, I must rely on discussion to figure out if it holds any water.)

    Per evil: evil is just a word we use to describe extreme immorality. I find it odd that people who believe in God can believe in evil. Seems odd for a perfect creator to create such a thing.

    Per the soul: I would say no. Certainly not in the Biblical sense. If you watch the first video Deepak argues for the side of a... spiritual unity that is exists in everything and could sort of fit a loose definition of soul, though once you start ignoring the religious dogma and get in to the purely metaphysical conversations, they become (ironically) much harder to argue against as there can be no conclusion.
  25. PatsFanInVa

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    I don't actually think we're born without a belief in God. I think there's much more to suggest that humans have an innate need for answers. Again, falling back on the particulars of one faith (though the particular example is just illustrative; I think something like it can be found elsewhere):

    The patriarch for whom the people Yisroel are named, was so named because of a dream where he wrestled with God (Jacob.) That's the literal translation of the word, sort of a "spirit name," Struggles With God.

    I really bring it up because of the universal applicability. I think whether atheist, agnostic, or any religion, you struggle with God in one way or another. The OP is doing it now, though (adopting the OP's subjective voice,) from the outside. The OP's counterpart in the discussion he relates, of course, would say he's not on the outside. Neither can prove the other wrong.

    But the notion that we're born not believing is a rationalist conceit. Perhaps it should be the default state, if we are in fact roughly analogous to programmable machines. But we're not.

    I've got to get to work, or I'd do some googling on the subject & drag up the usual studies.... maybe someone will have time to (I think I'm looking at a whole raft of work this weekend so I might not even get back to it then, or I might... dunno.)

    But I'm not prepared to take at face value the positive statement that we're hard-wired for belief only in what's scientifically proven. It may be better were it true (or, humanity may have become stagnant were that the case, very early on -- after all, if you don't long for the answer, why do science?) But I don't think it is the case.

    I think, rather, we're hard-wired to find an explanation, and for most, it's okay if our method of finding one is not scientific. Longing for an answer for things we scientifically know is called scholarship. Longing for the next answer, using the answers we have as a starting point, is lauded as scientific curiosity. Longing for an answer we simply don't have (and in some cases, perhaps, can't,) is called religion -- or at least religious sentiment.

    PFnV
  26. DocHoliday

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    "Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of all little children"

    Just as the mother is god to all young kids - the first supreme being that feeds, protects, instructs, and makes all the boo boos go away...

    I think it is inevitable that people find their god when they learn mother is only human.

    It's a natural mechanism, and explains why so many of the early gods were maternal being rather than the present paternal one, the that is a function of culture and not explicitly in any I the three Abrahamic texts I believe. Except perhaps regarding Jesus, I suppose.


    Just an anthropological perspective.
  27. Leave No Doubt

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    The bolded: that's exactly what I was trying to say,I didn't have the verbage for "it" but that's exactly what it is- from birth we all have an innate desire to seek answers. And we have that because from birth on we are constantly striving to go forward and to explore. We learn to crawl because inherently we WANT to. The more we see and hear and do, the more questions we have. Kids are always asking "why why why", a gazillion times; we only stop doing that because it's beyond annoying lol.

    And exactly-we all struggle with God, including the OP.

    Great post.
  28. Leave No Doubt

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    I'll definitely check out the video, thanks.

    True evil goes far deeper than extreme immorality, jmho, but I don't think everyone who believes in God necessarily believes in Satan but some do believe both exist. Some believe God is both, the duality of man and all that, new-agey type thinking. Definitely there are opposing forces at work all around us, all the time but maybe you have to believe in something spiritual to see it that way I dunno.
  29. PatsFanInVa

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    Well again, how does one define a God, with a religion? Religions may tell you what to do to make God happy, to relieve you of your sins, they might even tell you you'll go somewhere where you die (although the specifics become murkier as we do things like send up planes and rockets) -- heck, they might even tell you attributes of God , and they might repeat Greek formulae for how God must be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent (just before withrdrawing into a long treatise on how evil can then exist...) but don't they all really say they can't truly know God? I mean, except some lumpen televangelists?

    I think most of them reserve that to the category of mystery, in one way or another -- which is just what we've been discussing.

    Only it's not mystery in the sense of the old mystery religions, in which someone can tell you the secrets and you're "in." It's a mystery in the sense that it really can't be known... and you really can't stop trying to know it. Believers think of that need as religion. Nonbelievers think of it as needing to know what you can't, and some may become greats in the sciences. Not that religious people can't... it just takes either the right religion, or the right attitude toward one that tells you you already have the answers.

    We are what we are... in evolutionary terms we'd be pretty useless without this hard-wired need. If you want, you can just think of God as the unknown and unknowable. Encroach a little and it's not God anymore, by that definition... but again, that's the top-down God I guess you'd say. I think all that we think we "know" is God too... not very personal, dramatic, or comforting. But it fits the things I've learned.

    I grew up with some religion -- not a lot, and not very "imposing," in either sense of the word. But I still mutter to my personal internal God from time to time, by which I mean I pray.

    As I said, I can't make heads or tails of trying to convince others about religion. I look back and remember doing it when I was young, because it was fun and because I was always playing defense (as a Jew in the South.) Then the more I figured my way around my own contradictions the less fun it was.

    I have a great deal of trouble these days with anybody of any faith or lack thereof trying to impose said faith or lack thereof on someone else, at least as adults. Sometimes I worry about those close to me teaching doctrines I disagree with to their children, on similar grounds to the ones an atheist would us, vis, I don't believe in said doctrines so they should not be taught. Some of them strike me as borderline abusive. The mechanics of the celestial skinner box we call heaven and hell, for example. But there are some for whom those mechanics are the outcome of the search.

    For those subjected to said ideas, if they're seekers, they'll keep seeking. If they're believers, they'll keep believing. If they get tired, they may think they've gotten away from all that, but it will always come back, whether as religion, science, politics, or under some other guise. Same's true if you had no religion in your upbringing.

    If there wasn't a God, you'd have to invent him, one way or another.

    People want to matter. Or maybe more precisely, they want it all to matter. A man can die proudly laying down his life for another, I think (haven't done so, but it seems eminently probably when it happens.) But laying down his life for nothing? Say, if someone was target-practicing with a crash-test dummy, and you thought you were going to be a hero, but you were just a dumbazz?
    Oh man. What's the difference - just meaning.

    I'm just wool-gathering here.

    Lots and lots of good stuff all around. I like this thread.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2012
  30. PatsFanInVa

    PatsFanInVa PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Brought this to mind:


    Donation

    “Don’t give them ideas,” Sayid said softly,
    “let them harvest their own.” But I signed:
    his eyes to sight down a barrel and see
    the round top of the lollypop, or find
    this house on a wire-guide display;
    his lungs to draw breath through a charcoal cake,
    while my village’s tears muddy the choked clay
    veins of this other country; A liver to rake
    out the poisons of living they can not digest.
    Understand my bequest:

    I signed them away in angry hope like the mother
    who signs away life-to-come dreams of her soldier
    who’d roll to Jerusalem whole. Ideas drown in mud.
    A mother too can pay back blood with blood.

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