Give Him Credit
I am a spiritual person. I believe in God. I believe in a universal power, an entity that is beyond understanding which created life and the universe as we currently know and define it. I believe in an Everything, an Alpha, an Omega an infinite All.
My belief is also rooted in pure instinct. I think existence is just too beautiful and naturally logical to be an accident. I can’t NOT believe in a supreme Power that designed Being.
I also believe we are limited as men, and that the fullness of this supreme Power is beyond our understanding. But we are driven to understand it, so we constantly try to define what God is to us and in our lives.
We created structures that would help us acquire this critical definition of faith. And because we could, we designed these structures to fit the way we’ve evolved through millennia, to support our naturally formed beliefs, our societies and our cultures. And these structures became religion.
Which is good.
Religion, when it is true to its purpose reflects what for me is God’s greatest gift—sentience. This awareness—this consciousness, which allows us to create and re-create ourselves and our realities, enable us to recognize this divine mystery and explore this core of absolute goodness. In turn, it puts us in touch with our humanity, empowering us on a very basic level to determine as a society what is good and true. We created values and virtues as a response to this instinctive understanding of the supreme Power.
And Religion and its leaders have been instrumental in doing this for us.
But we ARE limited and (necessarily) flawed. And part of this divine limitation is manifested in that need we all have to find Certainty. It’s hardwired in our nature to question ourselves all the time. Sentience has a dark side, an uncertain side that comes with the awareness of self and the primordial need to feel connected and validated as beings. And religion is no exception.
Through it we exercise this need to be affirmed, to be called Right. It also reflects our deepest insecurity about this ultimate good—because what religion does is call itself the absolute right, its believers and practitioners the only ones who have it Right.
This part, where every religion asserts its authority on and “accuracy of knowledge” about the ultimate good over others like it, is its weakest nerve.
We have it right I think and we have it wrong. We have it wrong when we try to humanize God in our attempt to understand Him/ Her/It. We give God an ego and imagine a God wanting nothing but to be recognized and thanked and called and surrendered to all the time. All the time. We imagine a God who is jealous when we “forget” about Him/Her/It, not unlike a lover who craves our undivided attention. There’s a similar human emotion I know of – it’s called self-absorption. And our humanized God is self-absorbed.
I dare say true believing forgets itself. Because it just IS there, unquestioned and true. An unshakeable part of our existence much like waking up and taking a breath. You don’t have to constantly remind yourself and think about the truth of it in order to feel secure in it. It’s there without question, like God. Besides, what sort of a faith is it and what kind of strength does it possess if we have to remind ourselves all the time that we do believe in it? A person who goes to church everyday and spends hours reading the Bible and thinking about the word of God is a lovely and inspiring image but is not necessarily more spiritual than a hard working single parent who sleeps in on a Sunday because it’s his or her only day of rest.
It simply doesn’t make sense for God to have created man, abled him with choice and creativity, if all God wanted was a legion of worshippers. God is bigger I think. In fact, I can NOT believe in a god who isn’t. My God is MUCH more secure and confident than the image most religions paint of him. I am inclined to give God more credit.
We further humanize God and say he is Just and given to Wrath. Do I believe in justice? Definitely. But I don’t think God created the concept of justice. I think we did.
Our capacity to do good is rivaled only by our capacity to do evil, for nothing exists without its polar opposite; light-dark, big-small, good-bad. And while the large majority of us try to live our lives in varying degrees of goodness, we also know there is a minority among us (and I believe it to be a minority) who will act out and choose to fulfill the darker side of their humanity and their natural urges, who will hurt and do harm to us.
So we created systems and structures to keep them in check. We learned to punish those who err not only to protect ourselves and maintain order and harmony within the societies we build but to give relief to those upon whom harm has been done. We created the notion of consequence and reward to discourage ourselves from being bad and to inspire ourselves to do only what is good. Justice at its core is perhaps the only truly manufactured human virtue. Conceived by our nature and reared by our need.
God did not create this need, we did, by our own choices and actions. Every conceivable virtue is a product, an act of will: love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, kindness–all human, decisive ACTS OF WILL. In giving us the freedom to choose how we live our lives, God showed us a glimpse of the greatness (not to mention security) of His/Her/Its power by granting us the ability to determine ourselves. We were gifted with the ability to decide how to live the life we have been given. We share in God’s creative power, we create our selves and the world we live in.
Yet we often fail to remember in times of crisis that the world is the way it is because we make it so.
And in our desperate desire to have God responsible for everything that happens in our lives and in our world, we forget to become the one thing that may actually give us a better understanding of the things that happen to us. We forget to become accountable. We allowed ourselves the convenience of forgetting that mankind is responsible for what happens to itself.
We’re just individually too slow-witted to realize just how interconnected we all are in this tiny planet. We can’t conceive of the actions of people we’ve never met having an effect on our daily lives until some catastrophe hits. Global warming. Famine. Genocide. War. Chaos. And instead of pointing the fingers at the rightful entities—ourselves—we look up to the heavens, surrender our woes, unburden ourselves—laying everything on God’s door—and then go on our lighter ways. For isn’t that what religion teaches? Cast your burden upon Him those who are heavily laden? Every bitter part of our reality we “surrender” to God and we are so easily absolved of everything wit nary a thought about how we became so burdened to begin with. No wonder the cliché of repetitive histories.
Hell is a man made creation. Because we cannot conceive of a God who can forgive the worst among us, those who walked this earth, passed through its history and committed the most inhuman acts of cruelty and selfishness—those who we call evil, we cannot conceive of a reality that God’s love and forgiveness touches even them. So we create a hell to put them all in, to justify their existence to explain to ourselves and those who follow us (our children) why they had to live and exist at all.
We create godly reasons we cannot even fully define and say God had a purpose for putting them on earth. And they will meet their right justice when they face Him. But I believe the truth is, or a glimpse of the truth at least– is that they lived because they lived. They were gifted as we all are to live as humans. The choices they made in their lives may have inflicted upon us great pain and suffering but they were being no less human than we are. It simply is what it is without Godly rhyme or reason. Unacceptable? Certainly. For humanity.
But my God must be greater than the sum of humanity’s greatest virtues. My God must transcend all the weaknesses of His/Her/Its creation. So what I can’t do , God must be able to. Which includes loving the worst of us.
Maybe we can’t as yet swallow the truth that from God comes an infinite and unknowable depth of love from which something more important than the notion of justice is born.
Mercy. It is an offspring of love and kin to compassion and kindness and forgiveness and understanding. Love is the common thread that encompasses all faiths. The world and everything good in it and about it is moved by love. See.
The Beatles had it right all along.