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New Zealander Alan H. Dawe has, with The God Franchise, written a book which is perhaps needed for our times, and which is in any event certainly a timely book for our needs. It is, at all times, lucid and accessible. The winner of the 2012 Ashton Wylie Book Award, this is not (as one might suspect from one possible take on the title) a work about modern organized religion having become a spiritually depressing equivalent of Taco Bell and Baby Gap.

Instead -- well, I'll not give away too much (as this is really a work which ought to be bought and perused), but it is no secret that my own theological bent is towards Pandeism, so it would probably be plainly inconsistent for me to laud a work which did not at the least very strongly resonate with that theological model. Dawe's work approaches Pandeism, though for his part, eschews formalistic categorizations of theology. (He does catalogue the popular extant theories, and so mentions Pandeism explicitly amongst them, which is more detail than most bother to go into). But there are, to a much deeper extent, great commonalities shared by Dawe's conception and a pandeistic (or panendeistic) model. Most essentially, Dawe proposes that the truth will be revealed to us not by scripture or a voice from on high, but by a rational examination of our Universe. And, Dawe relates, such an examination ultimately reveals to us that we are fragments of our Creator. This is the franchise of which he speaks, and we are the franchisees, each of us an extension of our Creator, and a conveyer of our own experiences to it. So, Dawe writes:
Bear in mind, God is still only One — there is only One Consciousness. He now decided to not let the left hand know what the right hand was doing. He created individuals, letting them feel as if they were separate from each other, and from God, although in reality, they were all different pieces of the Giant Jigsaw Puzzle called God. It was as if He allowed the myriad pairs of eyes He had created in Himself to have a mist fall over them so they could not recognise who they were. This was the ultimate game. A giant jigsaw puzzle built in time, so there was constant change and motion. Blindfolds on everyone. Memory loss. Now, said God, let the fun begin.
Additionally, Dawe shares much common ground with the approach of Pandeism in his employment of a logical and reasoned analysis of the proof presented -- and of all of it. And so he finds proof of this concept in the commonality of religious belief -- not in any especial faith, but in those aspects of belief which are fairly universal. There are, he posits (as have I) bits and pieces of extant religions which point to this being the underlying truth, verses in Christianity and Islam and Hinduism and all the rest which can be separated out from man-made distortions and fables and such, and taken as a whole to match up with a reasoned basis for the existence of intelligent life -- to provide the sort of experiences which a sufficiently powerful entity would simply be unable to gain any other way. But Dawe's gift is to convey logical proofs without sounding as though that's what he's doing, instead coming across as one who simply speaks sense. We don't know attributes of our Creator because religions describe them; religions describe them because we fundamentally, through our most innate common sense, know them. And there you have it. Yet Dawe does not suffer lightly the less logical presumptions of religions. "The Church," Dawe proclaims, "has assumed Man has disobeyed God, generating Original Sin, and that is the source of all the world’s problems. No! I will repeat it again. The source of all the world’s problems is each individual's Ego. .... The real challenge each one of us faces is to rein in our own Ego. We are not sinners —- we are egoists."

His examples and illustrations are entertaining, sometimes humorous, always cogent. Nor does he delve into New Age notions, too deeply. I do have a few bones to pick. Like others who have approached this topic, I find Dawe too readily assigns the baggage-laden term "God" to the Creator of his examination (or, more specifically, "God-Consciousness"). And I dispute the necessity of what seem to me to be arbitrary infinitudes proposed for this entity-- which, in my view, do take Dawe closer to a panendeistic view of a Creator-as-Universe-container, instead of simply as Universe. But I can't stay mad at a writer who puts this notion into such common-sense language.

More can be seen on Dawe's God Franchise website, worth a visit as well, though it will similarly only entice you to read the book, and decide for yourself what sense it makes.



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