Oh my God!
Biblical, Talmudic, or Koranic literalists remind me of children wrinkling their noses at Belon oysters and asking for more Chef Boy-E-Dee. They want the world to be as simple as they are.
Tim Kreider, Twilight of the Assholes
The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.
I am also a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist, and a Jew.
I have reached the conclusion that God must be an idealist. He would pretty much have to be to put up with us for so long.
As long as humanity has been aware of God, it has struggled to understand God’s true nature. Prophets and priests, mystics and rabbis, theologians, scholars and the intellectually glib have written about and interpreted both God’s nature and God’s intent for generations and without ever coming to a universal understanding or agreement. After more than a few thousand years, it seems we would rather argue and kill each other over who God is and what God expects.
Either humanity is fairly stupid or God just isn’t very good at getting out the message.
There is quite a bit of talk about God these days, or more accurately, quite a bit of talk about why one or the other interpretation of God’s will is the correct interpretation. That is not a new phenomenon, of course. It is an argument as old religion itself.
It seems incongruous to me that love of God and adherence to God’s will (no matter how you label or define God) could be at the root of the evil that people do to each other.
But it is. Love of God has promoted more hate than pretty much anything else I can think of except in Canada, where for some it is that devil’s spawn Justin Trudeau.
I am not a theologian or even a biblical scholar but I do believe in God although he and I haven’t always been on the best of terms. It turns out that at various times in my life, I could be quite stubborn. Who knew?
What I don’t have is much faith in religion. Whatever God is or from where God came is beyond my understanding but there is no mystery about the origins of religion – all religions are man-made which makes them as imperfect as humanity itself.
Certainly, in many cases, the customer service departments of most religions could use some work.
Consider, for example, that during the First World War, both the Germans and the Allies believed that God was on their side and it may well have been true although probably not in the way each side envisioned. Even as both sides were slaughtering each other at places like Vimy Ridge, Christian priests who worshiped the same God and practiced the same religion but were on different sides of the front line were blessing soldiers and calling on God to grant their side victory.
I would think it isn’t very easy being God under those circumstances.
History is replete with examples of one group or another perverting the fundamental message of God to rationalize and legitimize intolerance, a lust for conquest, greed, and self-righteous sanctimony. The simple truth is that religion has spawned more sinners than saints. There are more would-be Pharisees walking among us these days than apostles – true followers of a simple faith.
And that’s what is so disheartening.
It doesn’t get much simpler than the Christian faith, for example. Love God; love each other. That’s it. All of the teachings of the New Testament are summed up in those two great commandments and yet religion has twisted and perverted and interpreted them in a thousand different ways to justify ignoring them.
The core of the message of all faiths is a simple recipe for harmony among all people. It is a message that gets touted by many but to which more than few merely pay lip-service. Every religion has had its time of being persecuted and every religion has persecuted others; often brutally.
In some ways, religion is to faith as politics is to democracy; too much of the first undermines the second. Faith, like democracy, is the ideal. Religion, like politics, is a somewhat sloppy method of organizing and practicing a system of belief that usually tends to become more important than the original message.
The adherents of any religion be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hindu/Sikh, Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism or any of the countless smaller less known religions that preach love but practice hatred have betrayed their faith if not their religion.
They do not represent the true intent of that faith, they pervert it in order to legitimize their prejudices.
The Qur’an preaches love and forgiveness as does the New Testament but those who want justification for their hatred only consider those passages that talk of killing. Whatever ISIS may be, it is no more a true representation of Islam than the IRA or pedophile priests are a true representation of Catholicism.
The followers of all scriptures have their share of perversion and hypocrites and all scriptures have more than a few critics from other religions whose knowledge of the scripture they criticize is as shallow as a Justin Beiber song.
The adherents of the Big Three – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – believe that God first revealed himself to Abraham and the three religions flow from that revelation. That is why members of those three faiths are called People of the Book. It all flows from the story of Abraham in the Book of Genesis found in the Old Testament.
Despite that common heritage, each of the three religions have alternately practiced intolerance, stoning, territorial conquest, vengeance and slaughter of the innocent and in every case, scripture be it the Qur’an, the Talmud, the New or Old Testaments was used to justify it.
One God. One message and hundreds of sects and denominations each believing its interpretation is the one that is divinely inspired and that all others are incorrect.
And that, my friends, is just Christianity. Every religion is subdivided: orthodox, Sunni, Shia, Catholic, Protestant, fundamentalist, traditional; the list of sub-categories is almost endless.
Christ was a Jew and yet Christians used his crucifixion as justification for the slaughter of Jews for centuries. Mohammed practiced religious tolerance for Jews and Christians because he saw them as People of the Book; brothers and sisters worshiping the same God. Yet, ISIS slaughters Christians and Jews, as well as, other Muslims while holding aloft the Qur’an and claiming to be following the teachings of the Prophet.
In a bizarre twist of faith, their claim is supported by some Christians and Jews who have chosen to believe that ISIS rather than the more than one billion peaceful Muslims worldwide are the true representatives of Islam.
Scripture – all scripture – is filled with contradictions and it seems incongruous to me that rather than finding strength to rise above our own fears and failings in the positive messages of whatever scriptures we follow, we seize upon the negatives to reinforce our prejudices and hatreds.
As a Christian, I find it virtually impossible to reconcile much of the hatred coming from those who profess Christianity these days. Christ didn’t preach vengeance nor did he suggest we should mount up and ride into Dodge with guns blazing.
And yet, that is the belief many who profess to be Christians promote.
How many among us truly believe that, were he walking among us today, Christ would be ambivalent about the fact that Israel killed more than 400 children during its last bombing campaign in the Palestinian Authority? How many of us truly believe that the Prophet would be standing by the side of ISIS as it rapes and murders fellow Muslims in the thousands across Syria and Iraq?
All scripture preaches tolerance. All scripture preaches mercy and forgiveness and while it is possible to find passages in all scripture that contradict those teachings in the end, it means that we have been given choices to make. We have been given positive teachings to guide us and we can either accept to live those teachings or we can reject them and embrace only those negatives that support our own inbred prejudice and fear.
The zealots and the fanatics like ISIS, Westboro Baptist Church and others like them have chosen to extract hatred from scripture. Is that justification for doing the same or does doing the same make us no better than them?
It isn’t necessary to have a faith to be a decent person and there are many who do not believe or who are unsure of the existence of God who are nonetheless better adherents to many of the teachings of scripture than many who profess to believe.
But those of us who have a faith have been given a gift that transcends our daily lives. We have been given freewill – the opportunity to choose the life we will live in our faith. We would do well to choose wisely because what we choose to plant is what we will harvest and even the smallest seeds can produce large crops.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was made man but as man we teach less by speaking the Word than by living it. We educate others about ourselves and the value of our faith by the example we set.
It isn’t easy to live up to the Word. I know – I’ve never achieved it but constant struggle is no reason to stop trying and I haven’t. It is also why I believe that God is an idealist.
I believe he hasn’t given up the hope that someday we will learn. Sadly, that day is not this day. This day is just another like so many others for the past few thousand years.
It is why I also believe that God must be the eternal optimist although God alone knows why he should be.
© 2015 Maggie’s Bear
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