God: An Alternative View
By: J. Marlando
It took me some time to decide on writing this particular article. After all we are living in a time of a great deal of religious and spiritual skepticism. Indeed, I spent many years of my adult life as an agnostic because the teaching of organized religion seemed far too self-serving and arrogantly ritualistic for my taste. The idea that God whispered “his” truths in the ears of a few but not all of us bothered me a great deal just as the idea that the path to God is through the church doors rubbed me the wrong way. For one thing, there are too many different church doors for them all to open to the truth.
I also wrestled a lot with the idea of a tyrannical god of heaven sitting in judgment of everyone who will either be rewarded or punished for their acts. Human action after all is extremely complex and often physiologic reasons exist behind the good and evil acts of people. Then there is the nonsense that suffering is somehow a path to salvation and sacrifice is a key to goodness. In short, I was never able to buy into a great many of the common religious-socio beliefs I’d been indoctrinated with.
I do not believe that I am alone. I think there are a lot of people who find too many loop holes and contradictions in religions to be believers. Yet, in the depths of them, they would like to know that there is a god and a heaven, especially these days when atheism has become a side-effect in the scientific arena. If none of this applies to you, the reader, and if you are now into some religion or belief that quenches your thirst for the divine, I suggest you DON’T read the following. On the other hand, if you are seeking to find a path that will fulfill you this article is meant to hopefully point the way.
Reasons How and Why Our Doubt Evolved
The 16th century Confucian sage, Wang Shihuai, told us that “The universe is all mind and all phenomena.”
Another word for mind is consciousness and so what the holy man is telling us is that consciousness permeates all things. A major problem is that the further we grow away from Nature as a species, the further we grow from our (conscious) connectedness to the Universe. To indigenous peoples such as the Australia’s Aborigines and America’s Indians and Africa’s Natives our connectedness to the spiritual world is ever as real as our connectedness to the physical world. Indeed, the indigenous view is that there is no separateness between mind, body and spirit at least in the way that 17th century Isaac Newton comprehended the world or Rene Descartes described the world as being soulless (except for we human beings) approximately a century before him. To clarify, the dead-world-view was seeded by the views of these two men and then when Darwin came along with his theory of evolution modern man’s trek into atheism and the Age of the Reductionist began to take root and grow.
This is important to contemplate because all this has to do with why such a great many people doubt their powers in the Universe and assume that life itself is a mere cosmic accident and they are merely a product of that accident. As a result it has become, in a term, academically unfashionable to think of consciousness as anything more than a process of the physical brain and thus to give any reference to the spiritual or especially to God is considered ignorant and suprstitious. Indeed, it is correct to say that in most scientific and higher-academic circles the three taboo subjects are (1) God and so (2) Spirituality and (3) Consciousness.
In at least once sense this can easily be rationalized: When “god” is taken out of the content, it leaves an existential emptiness; a being and nothingness and so both spirit and consciousness loses meaning. Spirit becomes mythological and consciousness becomes an extension of the physical; an activity of the brain. For those who cannot grasp anything passed the so-called mechanical universe the dead-world view becomes inevitable. After all, a godless world is most virtually a dead world. The question remains asking what is it that “sparks” life in things including ourselves. To date science is most willing to answer the question in terms of a kind of biological epiphenomenalism or, in other words, they don’t know. Nevertheless, the common scientific offering is that we are—as everything else is—the totality of our parts and nothing more.
On the other hand, religion comes along to defy the dead-view world and to assure us that there is a god “in heaven,” who gave life to all and is creator of everything; a kind of master builder of the universe. In this view is there any wonder that there are so many doubters? After all, it is simply difficult for a rational mind to accept the idea that there is a personality sitting on a distant throne judging human action.
There is not enough space in this narrative to go through all religions and so we will only address the Big-3. Christianity, Islam and Judaism! Each of these bureaucracies shares the same roots, tracing their origins back to the myth of Abraham. Judaism was first with the other two following.
Judaism was greatly influenced by Greek religiosity that, in turn, had been influenced by Egyptian mythologies. In view of this, organized religion can be traced back to the old god/kings of the earliest civilizations that found tremendous powers over the people by claiming a direct kinship to the invisible god. The population was simply told that those who were obedient to the community and its rulers would be rewarded by God and if they were not god would severely punish them. This kind of coercion has been adopted and used throughout civilization into our own times. The “good” Christian, Muslim and Jew is he and she who follows the rules of the organization just as the good citizen follows the “yellow-line- ordinances" of the community. This is and always has been the demagoguery of leadership! In terms of religion, the high priests—call them popes, presidents, pastors or imams—always know what god desires. Thinking people find this, in the least, difficult to digest and thus doubt spreads over the intelligentsia like syrup over pancakes.
Christianity and other Religions
As we can see, there are reasons why a lot of folks would have become religious skeptics. The operative word in the above sentence, however, is not skeptics but “religious.” From the start the god/kings and temple high priests presented themselves as intermediaries between the “all powerful” god and their own followers, the people!
From the beginning or organized religion the image of man served to create the image of god. It was for example, once believed that god had concubines, bookkeepers and so forth. Thus, the early religious temples served as replicas of god’s house therefore having temple prostitutes. Indeed, the head or chief prostitute was called the deity’s wife with the rest becoming concubines and domestics. In Ur, the ancient city of the Sumerians—digitization seen here when a father entered his daughter into then honorable profession, he was to also bring the girl’s dowry since she was becoming one of the deity’s brides.
From the start religions have been self-serving and profit orientated forever masking this by wearing the cloaks of altruism. Here are a few examples of today’s palaces called cathedrals, temples and mosques.
The very arrogance of it all has certainly served to shadow one’s faith when there is nearly a billion people in the world that are chronically undernourished and well over 2 million children that die each year simply because they are not immunized. But then again, the most common hypocrisy has always been religion telling its poor that they will be greatly rewarded in heaven for their suffering.
Christianity is not a jewel amidst the other zircons either: In the case of Christian beliefs Jesus is sent by God for the atonement (or payment) for the sins of mankind. Indeed, he becomes a scapegoat while serving to demonstrate the perfect life at least for folks in that place and at that time of his teaching. What is interesting, however, is that the “perfect life” ends in death and suffering.
One would think that as creative as God is, he would have thought of a better way of saving the world. After all, similar stories had also been told about Dionysus among the Greeks, Mirtha among the Persians, Isis among the Egyptians, Baal among the Babylonians and so on. In fact, Saviors being born of virgins had belonged to ancient myths long before the time of Jesus.
What made Jesus unique among the other savior/gods was that he taught us to love the world and to find the kingdom “inside” ourselves; to forgive our enemies, turn our cheeks, to be good Samarians and not to judge others. What is generally overlooked, however, is that historically this was the day of the Warrior God(s)—Zeus for the Greeks, Jehovah or YHWH for the Jews and later, Allah for the Muslims. And so, while Jesus was teaching love and peace the image for this warlord in the sky resembled Zeus the all-powerful in the minds of the many.
For the Jews, their Jehovah sent armies into battle sanctioning rape and confiscating properties but, historically, war has always been about expansionism with rape being considered part of the priveleges of victory. So here was Jesus, a peace maker, amidst the Romans aggressors, one of the most vicious Armies of the ancient world and the wrathful YHWH, telling people to feed the poor and to walk in love and peace. These were outrageous concepts at the time and more so with his openness in supporting the equality of women which was anarchy of the most daring kind in those chauvinistic days. But Jesus was defiant against the state and church so to speak; he was, in at least one way, an anarchist who even dared break the laws of the Sabbath while defying other traditions and laws just as openly.
While it is true that the Roman Church corrupted the gospels making them support their dogmas and concepts it is nevertheless safe to assume that there was historically a holy man called Jesus who might have been crucified. There is no historic proof of such a death sentence, however. Remembering that the Romans were known to have kept intricate records, no one has found even a line that suggests the story of Pontius Pilot handing Jesus over to his own people in a crown of thorns as the myth has unfolded.
The truth, however, is that the Early “Christian” Church never followed the teachings of Jesus in any case. The greed for power and wealth took precedence even over human decency in many instances. The inquisition was a bloody path of torture and murder during which the church confiscated property and other valuables from the victims of their legalized thievery. The horrors of the so called Holy Wars (the Crusades) with the Muslins were anything but “holy” on both sides of those battle fields where, symbolically, the warrior gods met in fierce, heartless force one against the other.
Then Protestantism arrived creating a blood-soaked and cruel history for itself. In fact, most of man’s inhumanity to man has evolved from the organized religions of the world, those pillars of self-righteousness.
A Short History of God
What seems apparent at least to this writer is that God was made in man’s image as opposed to being the other way around—He is in fact, a selfish, greedy, wrathful and revengeful type holding the typical worldview of ancient and modern man…in general. In this view, God most represents the dark side of our species. An irony worth thinking about!
One of the biggest challenges is to find out where the concept of a god first evolved especially since it is a certainty that the first deity was a female; a goddess and not a god. Here is probably the first statuette giving a prehistoric concept to a life-giving goddess, VenusShe’s not a raving beauty but her fertility is apparent as a creative force.
There is no doubt that the male, tyrant god is a product of the civilized mind; a male deity that reflects the kings and rulers of earth. In fact, his place in the invisible universe has been called a “kingdom” as in “the kingdom of heaven.”
Where the first problem arrives, however, is that as soon as one names a deity, the deity is necessarily given form—to say “he is god” is to create a reflection of human male-ness and with such a reflection arrives human traits. This is why the ancients believed that god had concubines and bookkeepers. They made “god” an extension of themselves. Let’s take a look at Zeus againhe is in the image of a powerful, human leader. In fact, most organized religions teach that one must fear god.
The absurdity of this message is overwhelming but nevertheless it has been accepted as a truth for millenniums. In fact, the fear factor has been used since the advent of so-called civilization itself. Remember the old Ur leadership telling the citizens that those who obey will be rewarded but woe to those who don’t. This has been major power tool in the demagogue’s bag of tricks giving the religious/politico trickster lots of control the rest of us since the first temple was constructed.
Religious temples became the center of the earliest communities, those city/states (a modern term) that were built to be independent from other religious, political, economic and cultural centers. Those earliest temples were called ziggurats as seen hereIt was in places like this that the world of “us” and “them” evolved and war became weaved into the civilized reality. Indeed, religion and nationalism is what began man’s inhumanity to man and continues to ground human action in bloody hostilities of one people against another. In any case, the first notions of a god evolved from our kind trying to understand existence itself—this is why there were sky gods, river gods and so forth. The God of creation did not emerge as a concept for thousands of years after the earliest religions had emerged . It is said that Abraham’s brother lived in the city of Ur but note that there is no archaeological evidence that anything that takes place in the first five books of the Bible ever actually occured. Nevertheless, it is said that with Abraham came the birth of monotheism and it is from this concept that the Creator God emerges as the one supreme god of the heavens and earth.
An interesting observation is that Babylon as seen in this artists rendition was supposed to be the image of God’s heaven, as the historian Karen Armstrong says, “With each of its temples a replica of a celestial palace. Unlike today, however, the gods (and there were many in ancient times) were not separated from the people as God is today. Indeed, the gods and the people were thought of as being made of the same stuff and enduring the same predicament. The only difference being that the gods had more power and were immortal. The next interesting observation is that it was thought that both gods and man shared in the same divine nature.
The above certainly lacks in telling the entire story of the creation of God but returning to the top part of this report, the reader will hopefully recall that it was a combination of Descartes’ philosophical views and Newton’s scientific views that took God out of Nature and so removed the divine from our kind to some unknown and unseen place beyond the stars. Then, further confusing the faithful Charles Darwin came along in the 1800s with his theory of evolution which knocked a great many holes in the creationist’s theory. This sudden challenge to religious traditionalism obvious played a major role in Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous line—God is dead.
In modernism—our times—between Darwin’s theory (and that is all it is in spite of the fact that science gives it authenticity) and the Big Bang theory (and that’s all it is, theory) both skepticism and raw atheism has emerged amidst the masses. Today the strongest support to religious beliefs unfolds with the indoctrination of the children. Little open mindless girls and boys are taught the beliefs of the parents who themselves were indoctrinated by the significant others in their lives along with the rituals of their churches, temples or mosques. Indeed, as it was thousands of years ago it is the same today—to believe in the god(s) is to believe in the religion that claims to know God’s mind.
The question then is this: is there a more rational way to the knowledge of God or is atheism the future religion for us all?
Does God Exist
The 16th century Confucian sage, Wang Shihuai, told us that “The universe is all mind and all phenomena.”
It was over four decades ago that I first read (or heard) the above statement. To share a little background, I had gone to two or three Protestant churches but was primarily raised a Catholic. By the time that I was in my twenties, I was disillusioned and disappointed by all. Then back in the later 1960s, I turned to Eastern thought as so many others did during those times. I read Alan Watts, got into meditation and began studying world religions. I guess I was seeking something but I was unaware of this at the time. After all, I have nearly always been a history buff and certainly world religions fit snugly into that category.
Although I had turned east for my religiosity, I also kept a tremendous love and respect for the historical Jesus in my mind and heart. It wasn’t that I believed in the offering that he was God manifested into flesh and blood or any of the other more mystical mythologies about his life. I greatly admire his ethics and humanism that weaved itself throughout the gospel thick with church dogmas and concepts. I realize that a great many people believe that the gospels were inspired by God but I am in good company by dismissing this view. Thomas Jefferson, for example, wrote “The Life and Morals of Jesus” for the very same reasons. Most basically that the early church writers corrupted the simple but profound teachings of Jesus by creating myths and other stories to correspond with the magic and mysticisms of their own church doctrines.
First of all Jesus was a devoted Jew who rebelled against the arrogance and hypocrisies of the Rabbis, Pharisees and scribes of his times and, no doubt, the Roman influences penetrating his world with additional laws, taxes and controls over the people. In this regard, there are a number of great books that attempt to uncover the mysteries of Jesus’ life but for purposes here we just need to know that he was a well-known teacher and sage that taught a philosophy of love. His teachings were clearly a break from the old Greek influences and a rejection of Judaism itself in sight of the power and wealth seekers of those religious communities. In fact, Jesus’s world was much like our world in that it was ruled by materialistic motivations and little more.
I had an understanding of all this and this was a reason why I had divorced myself from organized religions and why I was still seeking a truth that fulfilled me—the meditation helped sooth the frustrations that bounced about in my psyche but I was still after an epiphany of some kind. Then I accidentally came across the Gospel of Thomas—probably the least corrupted gospel available but still influenced by early Christian and Gnostic concepts. Even with this in mind, the book intrigued me especially when I happened across Jesus saying this: If those who lead you say to you, “See the Kingdom in the sky,” then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, “It is in the sea,” than the fish will precede you. Rather the Kingdom is inside you and outside you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty, and it is you who are that poverty.”
The reading of this reminded me of Jesus saying that he and the father was one. This was clearly not Jesus claiming to be the deity but instead of Jesus explaining that the “father” (God) dwelled in him and so he in the father.
But how could this be?
A few years later I read the Wang Shihuai observation, that “The universe is all mind and all phenomena.” It was then I began to realize that I had always thought of God as being a personage and a personality, a kind of powerful, old man resembling Zeus; the final judge!
Lots of thoughts began streaming through my head: How could God hear every prayer…how could God let bad things happen…how could God know every bird of the sky and so forth. My answer was that God was that “Mind” or consciousness that permeates everything, the One in All!
From this, I began to realize that God was not the Creator but instead Creation itself—not Darwinism or the Big Bang theory could defy this realization because God was the inside and outside of everything. This was why Jesus preached his philosophy of love and so of kindness and of compassion. Through God we are all in connectedness to everything and everyone else. We are the same with our differences only being apparent.
In time I was to discover that a great many quantum physicists were saying this very thing except in the language of science—master thinkers like David Bohm, Paul Davies, Fritjof Capra, Amit Goswami, Fred Alan Wolf and so many others.
This was also known by the Jewish Cabalists, the Hindus and Buddhists and even in the basic teaching of Mohammed, that each of us is one in God.
Jesus had not been a teacher of his own intellect but shared the wisdom of the Divine with us. He had said, as many other sages had said, love your neighbor as yourself; do onto others as you would have others do onto you. If we chose to do only this much, just think about it, all war, racism, sexism, hatred, greed and jealousies would simply go away.
In view of all this Jesus again substantiates what has been said here in Thomas; a paragraph well worth contemplating! He said: I am the light which is over everything, I am the All; from me the All has gone forth, and to me the All has returned. Split Wood, I am there. Lift up a stone, and you will find me there.
The Religious Philosophy
I think historically the mistake has been to place the temple, church and mosque between God and the People. This is certainly a practice of civilization. In indigenous cultures the people participate in the rituals of praise and dance. In this regard, I have often said that if I ever joined an organized religion it would be the black Baptists not at all for the Baptist doctrine, but because they so often sing and dance to the glory of God during their services whereas most of Christianity and other religions intellectualize with somber hymns and morbid, boring sermons. In observing the black Baptist one can clearly see that to them God is a personal experience and not some intellectual pursuit that so many other religions offer.
My point is that God, Universal Mind, the Divine (call it what you will) is not about suffering and sacrifice. These are creations of the church, man’s bureaucratic centeredness where popes and presidents preside claiming to be God’s representatives. In this view, what the church, the temple and the mosque should be about is simply awakening the God-ness in people. Perhaps then religion would stop being about punishment and reward and start being about love of self and others.
In regard to all this I recall one of the most enlightening observations I had after my years of skepticism and doubt—it was not the idea of an omniscient god that I refused, it was the reformer god that offered everlasting damnation that I could not believe in. And, another thing is, that religions mirror themselves as centers is enough to turn me away from their doors. To state we are Catholics, Muslims, Baptists, Methodists, Mormons or some other label of religion is to claim exclusivity; to create an “us” and “them” reality. Let’s face it atheism began spreading by the end of the 1600s because there had been so much warring between Catholics and Protestants; so many Catholics killing Protestants and so many Protestants killing Catholics that the people withdrew. How could any rational mind support such irrational and cruel behavior in the name of God and/or religion? (Just think of today’s world and the absurd notions of a “holy war.” The very term is a paradox in reasoning).
In any case, my point is that a great many of today’s skeptics and atheists cannot accept the absurdities of church doctrines and hell’s fire ideologies because, for one thing, they have never gone beyond them. This was me many years ago so I know…that is, I was disappointed in what organized religions were offering and believed at the time that there were no alternatives. Most simply, it was not until I stopped looking for religion and started seeking God did I begin to realize that there was a certain connectedness between myself and the entire universe and that it was God that was the cohesive force of everything. This realization I suppose is why Shihuai’s offering that told us, “The universe is all mind and all phenomena,” struck me as being so insightful; so incredibly wise.
Jesus supported this when he announced that the kingdom is both inside and outside of us. And, as I have said before the Jewish Cabalists agree with this as do the Buddhists and the Christian Mystics; the same notions were also realized in early Islamic concepts and certainly belongs to all indigenous realities. We can assume that the early Jewish Jesists believed this before Christianity adopted the Jewish teacher as a savior/god. After all, the statement, know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father; I and the Father are one, is certainly a statement that validates the All in One/One in All world view. (This same message, said another way, is repeated by Lao Tzu, the ancient sage of Taoism: The nameless is the origin of heaven and earth; the named is the mother of all things. These two are the same they are only given different names when they become manifest. They both may be called the comic mystery).
As already offered, a major problem with organized religions is that they serve a philosophy of separateness—the people are over there, the church is over here with God dwelling someplace else. In this way the church/temple/mosque becomes the center with god above and the people below; it is the epitome of bureaucratic structuring!
Thinking people have a difficult time accepting this structuring primarily based on the early Jehovah who, in the image of our own bureaucrats, is pathologically judgmental, demanding terrible sacrifices and subservience. The God of Jesus, on the other hand, is a God of love and forgiveness. Organized religions have historically shown that they possess neither love nor forgiveness in any universal way. Indeed, anyone outside the flock is classified as being a “them” and therefore looked upon from the eyes of contempt. Even the so-called good hearts and gentle people who came to America for religious freedom—the Puritans—murdered and tortured people that did not accept their faith as being the faith after they arrived. Catholics, Protestants and Muslims have all done this to people they’ve branded as heretics. In fact, there was a time when I would have been tortured and/or executed for writing this paper by the self-righteous of those organized religions.
So, typically—not always but typically—the serious skeptic and other disbelievers in God have actually confused church doctrine, dogma and mythology as being representative of God-ness iself.. For many others this only indicates a baptism into ignorance and is therefore rejected as so much nonsense. I went through this stage too by the way.
The matrix of finding the loving, forgiving God, however, is, if you will, written in each of our souls. Some of today’s scientists are even saying that we have all been endowed with a God gene. With science aside, however, I do believe that everyone feels a slight tugging in their hearts and minds, at least every now and then that God is. Then theology enters and doubt and denial return. After thinking about it, who for example, could trust a god that would send his only son to be tortured and sacrificed to save the world…from his own wrath?
Indeed, the moment we begin looking outside ourselves for spiritual truth we only become more and more confused. What we want is to open to what some call our Jesus/Buddha Natures or, in other words, our own god-ness. Indeed, when we walk in love and forgiveness we walk in God’s light and so in God’s joy and all doubt simply goes away.
I have not written this to sway anyone’s beliefs but rather to assist in opening the mind and heart of the skeptic to an alternative way of thinking and feeling about the divinity of life and living it. The major lesson has been that there is no center, there is only god and, as Jesus taught, the kingdom is inside and outside of each of us and everything else. Remember, split wood or look under a stone and you will find him there. We are in oneness with everything as God is in oneness with each of us. After all, the Universe is all mind and all phenomena is it not?
You cannot find God by intellectualizing him/her or seeking him/her beyond the stars—if you have tried and have failed choose to walk in love and forgiveness today and see what happens.
______________IF you enjoyed this article you will probably want to read:
Religion: Why it has failed and One Way to Fix It. Click below:
Or, An Interview With Jesus. Click below: