The blogging community, especially the spiritually oriented, most especially the Christian spiritually oriented blogging community enjoys a tremendous variety of faith-stances, perspectives and viewpoints. Each of us have our own, and all too often we tend to absolutize ours and relativize those of others who may not be in complete accord with ours. This of course is a form of exclusivism; it may be crude or subtle, yet few Christians can confess to being perfectly free from it.
I have already posted ideas about the stages of spiritual growth. Summarizing I see three:
1) The childlike trust in the parent extends spiritually to a love of the Heavenly Parent. (Jesus said "except you become as a little child, you shall in no wise enter the kingdom of God". Scientists often bring a child like trust to their discipline enabling all sorts of tremendous development of science; they understand Jesus' admonition better than do most ardent Christians.)
(Unfortunately many, perhaps the majority of the Christian community remain at this level of faith throughout their lives.)
2) The discovery of objective truth, the 'scientific' orientation appropriately born in adolescence, the development of a critical consciousness, often accompanied by a new scepticism re matters of the spirit.
3) The birth of a mature love leading to a reasoned faith. (A chief attraction of the spiritually oriented blogging community lies in the relatively large number of members who have progressed to this level in their development.)
Another useful categorization for spiritually oriented bloggers lies in their attitude re the personal God. Some of us cling to the idea while others in the course of their spiritual development have laid it aside.
Karen Armstrong provides a unique example of the three stages in the story of her life (June 10 link): raised in a nominal Catholic home in England, she entered a convent where she stayed 17-24, while also studying at Oxford. At that point Truth won over Faith. She became (in Marcus Norg's term) "religion's foremost public intellectual".
Some question remains in my mind as to whether, how or to what degree Karen may have achieved the stage of "a mature love and a reasoned faith".
However I completely agree with Marcus. In Chapter 7, "The God of the Mystics" of her A History of God she provided an interesting discussion of the pros and cons of the personal God; she pointed out that myth, mysticism, and
mystery all stem from the same Greek root (p. 211).
On page 209: "the personal God has helped monotheists to value the sacred and inalienable right of the individual....and helped the West to acquire the liberal humanism it values so highly."
"Yet the personal God can become a grave liability... a mere idol carved in our own image.... We can assume the he loves what we love and hates what we hate, etc." The is the basis of the terrible fratricidal blood among Christians
through the centuries.
And of course there is the issue of gender, a monumental one in the minds of many people. (Some liberal churches have taken to praying "Our mother
who art in heaven, etc.", acknowledging that as a metaphor Christ could not have meant "he" to be exclusive.)
These problems may have had some bearing on the suggestion of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that it might be time for "50 years" of "religionless Christianity". (Of course he remained a very religious person until he died.)
Speaking of prayer it's difficult to conceive of prayer being addressed to a nonpersonal entity. I can witness that religion had little meaning for me until I encountered the personal dimension.
The unprogrammed Quakers rarely speak of prayer; instead they 'hold you in the light', and this term, as an alternate to prayer suggests that they (at least many of them) have moved away from a personal God. They are a powerful force in our
culture, but probably not as significant to the general population as pentecostalism (at the opposite pole re a personal God. ) I lean toward Quakerism, and find pentecostal very attractive.
Re 'myth': to speak of 'The Myth of a Personal God' does not in the least cast aspersions on the reality. In spite of the popular culture myths do not imply a lack of validity: your myth is the system of thought that informs your life.