We act out a story and we perceive the world through a story. Thus the question is, what story should you act out? Or what story should you emulate? Or what story should you imitate? Well, you should imitate that which is the highest good. And that is not a description of the objective world, because you can’t imitate the objective world. You imitate something like a spirit. One way of thinking about a spirit it that it is a pattern of behavior. For example, if you are in a concert, the whole audience is animated by a spirit; it’s the spirit of music. Whatever that spirit is, and it inhabits everybody simultaneously, it’s obviously a pattern because everyone’s moving the same way. It’s a pattern. The band is synced together physiologically and there’s something moving about. That’s literal because it moves you. That’s a pattern that you emulate. It’s a pattern of character.
And the stories about God in the biblical corpus are representations of a pattern to emulate. They’re not a description of the structure of the objective world. They’re not proto-scientific theories. They’re an embodied ethos. And it’s a very complex ethos and you can’t sum it up in a sentence because life is too complicated to sum up in a sentence. You could say, love your neighbor as thyself, but that has to be unpacked. God is presented in the biblical corpus as a character and as a character that calls us to emulate.
For example in the story of Noah, God is present as the spirit that calls to be wise in times of trouble, to prepare. You might say, I believe in God, but do you let that spirit guide you? If you’re wise and awake, do you follow the spirit that calls you to prepare in times of crisis? IF so, then you believe in the most fundamental sense, because you acted out as you see the world.
God is also represented as a character with multiple dimensions and each story is a representation of a dimension. For example, the Abraham story which is a very fundamental story. God is represented as the spirit that calls the overly dependent and secure to the adventure of their lives. Do you believe it that? Do you leave your place of security and have the adventure of your life? Yes or no? No, then you don’t believe. Yes, then you follow that spirit. Belief is the following. Belief is not a propositional statement, it is the following.
Another example is the story of Exodus. God is the spirit that calls those who labor under tyranny to shoulder the burden and responsibility of their autonomy. Do you believe in that? Well, do you think slavery is wrong? Of course it’s wrong. It’s obvious that it’s wrong. There’s a reason it’s obvious and it isn’t because you figured it out. It wasn’t obvious to many people through the vast spans of history. In fact, quite the opposite. Think about this. If I can make you do what I want, why don’t I have the right to do that. Or, why isn’t that even the definition of right. If it’s obvious that slavery is wrong, why did it take us until a few hundred years ago to figure that out?
Recall that Israel means, we who wrestle with God. The people of Israel are God’s chosen people and what that implies, at a narrative level, is that if you wrestle with God you’re one of the chosen people. And everyone wrestles with God whether they know it or not. Atheists included. It is better to be off the fence not believing, that on the fence (e.g. agnostics). Those who sit on the fence are those who will be subject to the harshest judgment, because they want to play both hands against the middle. They never commit.
What story are you acting out? What story will you act out? Meditate on that.