• Barbara Alexander, MA, MDiv

The God You Don't Believe In


Whenever I hear “I don’t believe in God” I see colors. Let me explain. Levels of consciousness have been mapped by a myriad of researchers over years of time. With the help of master synthesizer, American philosopher Ken Wilber, we can see how each researcher’s system . . . moral, cognitive, emotional, spiritual, ego, values, worldviews, needs, somatic . . . maps with the others. An outside line (much like temperature marks on a thermometer) using the colors of the rainbow allows each developmental line to be compared. While individuals don’t develop lockstep up each developmental line, we each have a “center of gravity,” a place on the spectrum of consciousness where our consciousness generally resides. Below is a Spectrum of Consciousness that shows the color marker and several developmental lines.

This schema has a variety of beneficial aspects. An important one for understanding the divides and subsequent disasters in our world is that spiritual traditions are understood very differently at each level. In my practice I work with many people who have rejected the tradition of their childhood because they cannot agree with the theology. So my response to the “I don’t believe in God” statement is, tell me about the God/tradition you don’t believe in?

Because I live in the States, it is generally the Christian tradition that’s been left behind and certainly there are other reasons than theology. We now know how prevalent child sexual abuse by clergy has been. But most often I hear, “I no longer believe the stories are true” or “They don’t practice what they preach” or “How can they possibly think they are right and everyone else is wrong.” Sadly these questions point to a particular center of gravity of the tradition, not the tradition as a whole. At an Amber, or traditional, level of consciousness a tradition is seen as exclusive, believing it holds the only “right way.” Often the scriptures are seen as the literal word of God. You must belong to the group and accept the beliefs to be part of it. There is an absolutism that generates a fundamentalist attitude. People outside the tradition are ignored, viewed with suspicion or persecuted.

I’ve heard many stories, including a non-Christian teenager being told by her best friend’s mother that it was too bad that she was going to hell and a middle school boy whose grandparents wouldn’t come to his father’s funeral because the father had changed denominations and was now doomed to purgatory. It is well to remember that an Amber worldview reigns in each religious tradition, witness the Islamic fundamentalists who generate such strive in our world! But it’s not the whole story.

“My point is that to disregard a tradition for the beliefs and actions of those at a particular level of consciousness is short-sited and wrong. Once a tradition has been painted with a negative broad brush, it will never have the opportunity to be explored. Today we know that beyond the traditional (amber) view a modernist (orange) then postmodernist (green) and finally integral (teal) beckons. Each is alive and well on the planet and each has something to offer the healing of the world.”

About the Author

Barbara is an integral practitioner whose 35-year career has focused on humanity’s capacity to change. She combines her passion for human development with her training and experience as a licensed psychotherapist, spiritual director and coach. Her work is grounded in the belief that humans are more that we think we are. Embedded in modern and postmodern sensibilities, so many of us see ourselves as separate selves or “skin encapsulated egos,” but we are much more than that… we are unique expressions of the Divine. Learn more about Barbara here.

#traditions #consciousnessoftraditions #spiritualityandreligion

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