Saving God

I had a recent exchange with someone who wanted me to “level” with him on what my position was on Jesus. It caught me by surprise because I know I have blogged about Jesus a number of times and thought I was clear on how I felt. So, this is how I responded:

I believe Jesus was a real man who really existed and do not relegate him to just being a mythical figure. Clearly he was a great teacher and given the lengths his followers went to spread his message he may have performed extraordinary feats that through the lapse of time have become exaggerated. As to whether he was the messiah, I take a somewhat Jewish position on this. You will find that aside from the Chassidic and other ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects, most Jews have a very favorable opinion of Jesus. Most believe he was a great teacher and may have performed the miracles attributed to him. The reason they do not believe he is the messiah is simple – the temple is still destroyed, Jews are still scattered across the globe, and nations still raise their ‘swords’ against one another. Does this diminish the message of Jesus and what he tried to accomplish? I don’t think so. I think the New Law he taught was intended to save all of us from the rigidness and complexities of the Old Law and to a greater extent religion in general. The problem as I see it, is people still hold on to ancient traditions and superstitions that completely deflect the focus of the message and thus creates just another confusing collaboration of doctrines and dogmas, which is what I think Jesus was trying to “save” people from in the first place.

Then came the question of what I believe about God. Well this is indeed the tougher question because anyone who knows me, knows my views on this often drift with the wind. As inflammatory as this may sound, I personally believe that the God depicted in ancient texts like the Bible or the Koran only exists within the confines of those books. The late bronze/early iron age God, for all intents and purposes is dead. There have been no divinely appointed prophets with super powers and no unexplained nature defying miracles in at least 2 thousand years (assuming there ever were to begin with). We have put men on the moon, have telescopes that return images that are billions of miles away and yet, there is no sign of a Divine Destination where Elijah flew off to in his fiery chariot (2nd Kings 2:11) or where Jesus ascended to after his death and resurrection (Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51). We have documents and tablets that predate the Bible which contain a moral code and similar cosmological myths (Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Tablets of Hammurabi) . The ancient writings must be weighed on their merits rather than on emotional tradition. The idea of a talking snake (Genesis 3:1-5) or a talking donkey (Numbers 22:28-30) is laughable to the modern mind (nowadays we have the ability to make it possible with computer animation or robotics). If I were to tell someone I was swallowed by a fish and lived in its belly for 3 days (Jonah 1:17) I would probably be committed to an asylum. So while at risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water, I must take the position that it would be better to not study the Bible at all then to take a fundamentalist or literal approach to it. Context is key. All ancient people had their own god or gods and they justified their actions no matter how atrocious by stating it was either their god’s will or the doing of the gods themselves. If you witnessed the destruction of your temple, city, the deaths of loved ones and friends, and were forced into exile in an unfamiliar land and forced to serve a tyrannical king you would be hoping for a supernatural savior too. If you did not have the knowledge of the universe that we now have and looked to the stars in the sky without the bright lights of an overpopulated city, how could you not think that the heavens proclaim the glory of God (Psalm 19:1)?

I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings. (Albert Einstein)

Just as the Jews changed from the polytheistic concept of “our god is better than your god” to the monotheistic concept of “our god is the only god,” our concept of God must evolve in order for God to remain relevant with the vast amounts of scientific discoveries. More and more people are walking away from religion than ever before and it is for a number of reasons. Whether it is because of the despicable actions of men who are supposed to be holy or the glaring absence of a “God who protects” in the wake of young children being slaughtered like animals by a deranged gunman; the God that most of us were taught to believe in, is quickly fading into obscurity.

Yet, when I look into my children’s eyes and am filled with love or when I see a kind act by someone to a complete stranger and am filled with joy or when I am in despair and need hope, that is where I find God.

The order from chaos..

The calm that precedes and follows a storm..

The breeze against my face on a sweltering hot day..

The sound of the tides mixed with singing of the sea gulls..

The intricacies of our DNA..

The unexplainable phenomena of the dividing of cells to form a new life..

The sparks of joy and promise in the eyes of a child..

The laws of nature and the discoveries of science..

God is the indwelling and not the transient cause of all things. (Baruch Spinoza)

And as to religion.. Well the Biblical definition of religion happens to be perfect:

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are just fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us. (James 1:26-27)

 

What is the world coming to?

One of the biggest problems facing the human race is intolerance and ignorance. Both are equally dangerous and counterproductive to any form of progress we can make. One only has to turn on the evening news to see gridlock in government and violence in the name of God to see that humanity as a species is just insane. Yes, insane. Why do I say this? Well, ask Mr. Albert Einstein..

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein.
Think about it. How may times has corruption caused economic collapse? How many wars have been fought over religion? Look at what is on TV. An over abundance of “Reality TV” that is hardly reality but, distorts the viewers into actually believing that it is. How pathetic are we that people publicly lower their own moral standards on national television to “win the heart” of the bachelor or bachelorette who has been sleazing around with the other hopeless romantics the whole time as well?
 
To add to this continual dumbing down of society it seems the capturing of a bully beating up on a young kid or a homeless person on a cellphone so it can be uploaded to YouTube is now dubbed as “cool”. We see morally disturbing shows like “Toddler in Tiaras” and other forms of sleaze TV and then wonder why our children get in to far more trouble than we ever did. I may be crazy but, does any one see a similarity between UFC fighting and the Gladiators of Rome?
Humankind has advanced from living in straw huts and hunting with spears into a technologically advanced and literate race, capable of flight and erecting massive buildings and even going into space. Yet we have begun to digress as we progress. I watched a video in which people were interviewed about historical figures and events and I was completely blown away by the fact that dozens of people didn’t know who Adolf Hitler was. These same people couldn’t tell you who the Governor of their own state is or name the current Vice President. Of course, when you asked them who Simon Cowell is, you got a quick answer. OK. I get it, history may be boring and educating yourself on things like economics and government may not be high on the priority list for many people but, those who don’t learn from their history are doomed to repeat it.
 
I recently had the pleasure of yet again hearing someone refer to me as an ignorant heretic. I considered the source and it didn’t bother me but, I decided to engage in a debate (surprising, huh?). The debate started over his belief that all Muslims are evil and that the Islamic faith is all about violence. He is a Christian and I reminded him that the man he worships was very clear about not judging, loving your neighbor as yourself, and even loving your enemy (turn the other cheek). He then proceeded to tell me about all the violence that the Quran advocates and when I asked him if he ever read it… you guessed it, he answered No. This is an example of both intolerance and ignorance – how can you be so sure about something you have absolutely no knowledge of? I could have told him how the church really grew (by the sword not the spirit) but, instead I asked him if he would ever consider reading the Quran. He told me “Absolutely not” and I told him that unless he did he was really ignorant on the topic and would be better off shutting his mouth. He then did the usual and pointed to Osama Bin Laden, al Qaeda and other terror networks. I then reminded him that there are over 1 BILLION Muslims in the world and that if the religion was really about violence, we would have a lot bigger problem then we do now. I then pointed to various passages in the Bible where violence exists and is condoned (yes, it’s there in both testaments). He then told me it was different because it was in the Bible. At this point I realized the level of intolerant ignorance I was dealing with and told him to either read the Quran or stop trashing it. He said “Never!” and I said “What would Jesus do?” Wow, what a look he gave me.
 
We all go through life trying to find some kind of purpose. Something to give us hope and meaning. As our society becomes more and more secular we are also becoming less ethical and morally corrupt. Look at divorce rates. Look at the number of single parents and teenage pregnancies. As we continue to advance in science and medicine people have begun to lessen their dependency on believing in something greater than themselves. The danger in that is very clear.. When there is no God, then to whom in humankind held to account? All of us are born with just enough light to seek the truth. There is more than one way to find the truth and more than one path to the Divine. The allegory of the Tower of Babel teaches that multiple paths are actually part of the divine plan. From what I have read, the closer one gets to the truth the more the paths begin to weave into each other. The more one studies the foundations of all religions, the more they find common tenets and principles. With the advancement of science the scope of the Divine appears to diminish but, only when one dismisses the concept that everything has a source. There are many things that man has yet to discover and prove. Our emotions and our ability to reason will likely never be explained by science as those are the most divine of all gifts given to man. When we use one of those gifts more than the other, we lose our balance and get off course. When we believe that our personal beliefs have a higher moral authority then the beliefs of someone else, we cower in our own hypocrisy. We must all learn that within everyone is the ability to help others and the maliciousness to destroy them. Rather than focus on the faults of others or your own personal perception of the infidelity of the path that they may follow – focus on your path and what it is you are doing that may make the world a better place. We are finite as beings but, infinite with our actions and our ability to pass on what we know to the next generation.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light