Man and God

From what we have been able to determine or deduce, earliest
man did not have a sense of his spiritual nature or its
relationship to a god.

This is not surprising, as millions of Chinese in particular, and
the Japanese, do not have a developed sense of “God” in
the Western sense. Judging from their behavior, we could say the
same about most people today, even though 96% of the American
people say that they believe in “God”.

Early man seems to have begun a consciousness of a “God”
through animism, the belief that there is life in nature and
natural objects, and that these objects were worthy of
veneration.

The American Indians are animists, although they have a
sense of hierarchy with their concept of the “Great Spirit”.

Today, in the Nilgiri hills of South India, the Todas are
known for their worship of animal life, rocks, etc. Little
shrines of deer horns and cocoanut oil lamps dot the hillsides.

From this it is a short step to converting animals into
gods, common in Hinduism like the Monkey God and the Elephant
God.

Gods half-animal, half-human as also in ancient Egypt.

And finally to gods in full human form, the anthropomorphic
deities in Hindu, Greek and Roman mythology.

Common was the custom of rulers to declare themselves gods;
the Egyptian Pharaohs, the Roman Caesars, the Japanese
Emperors.

Belief in demons and evil spirits began early, and continues
today in parts of the world. There are the Jinns of the Moslems;
Satan and his cohorts of the Jews and the Christians.

(These observations are meant to be nothing but an overview.
For a detailed description, we recommend the books of Mircea
Eliade, “A History of Religious Ideas”.)

Judaism began among the ancient Israelites in a Middle
Eastern world where belief in one transcendent God was scattered

widely. Abram began his wanderings from Ur of the Chaldees (near
Basra, Iraq). He found a priest of the most high God, Melchize-
dek, in Jerusalem. (Genesis 14:18)

The Old Testament is full of references to God as having
human form. In Genesis 32:22-30, it narrates how Jacob wrestled
with God, and saw him “face to face”.

Particularly in the New Testament, and particularly in the
Gospel of John, God is described as a spirit. “God is a spirit”,
John 4:24

Both Central American societies and early Judaism developed
the idea of a need for animal or human sacrifices, or a scape-
goat, to propitiate the gods or God for the failings or sins of
the people.

This reached its ultimate expression in the idea of the “Son
of God” being sacrificed on a cross for remission of the sins of
all people, both living and those yet to be born.

This formulation has been rejected both by Judaism and
Islam.

Part of the theological drawback to the idea of a single,
supreme, ultimate sacrifice good for all time is the insistence
of the Christ that “no one cometh to the Father but by me; that
whosoever does not believe in me shall be damned eternally to
everlasting hellfire”.

This seems to run counter to the idea of a loving God
concerned about the welfare of all people from all times.

Part of the drawback for Judaism’s God is His description in
the Old Testament as concerned solely with the welfare of His
chosen people, Israel, to the deadly detriment of everyone that
got in the way on the road from Egypt to Canaan.

In fact, He ordered the Israelites upon arrival in Canaan to
kill every man, woman and child, with dire consequences if this
was not done.

And once the kingdom of Israel was established, woe betide
its neighbors.

Another interesting aspect about this tribal God is that He
seemed wholly unconcerned about the welfare of the souls of the
other Middle Eastern peoples mentioned in the Old Testament: the
Medes, the Persians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Egyp-
tians.

And apparently outside the knowledge of the Biblical wri-
ters, the people of India, China, Europe, etc. who do not exist
on its pages.

What is the fate of those millions of people born before
Christ?

What is the fate of those millions of people born after the
Christ who never even heard of His existence?

What is the fate of those millions whose only fault is to be
born into a Hindu, or Buddhist, or Moslem, or Jewish, or whatever
family, who have quite properly been brought up to believe in the
religion of their family, a very normal human trait?

What is the fate of those millions whose spiritual side is
so weak, for family, cultural or other reasons, that they are
virtually unaware of spiritual matters, or a need of God?

God has not made it easy for humans to believe in His exis-
tence, let alone easily determine what is the one “correct”
manifestation or definition.

Interestingly enough, too, in today’s attempts to “neuter”
God, or give Him both male and female attributes, the Old Testa-
ment refers to God as male. (“The darkness He called night”,
Genesis 1:5 etc.)

Jesus himself continues this Israel-only policy. He stated
that He was only sent to the lost of Israel, and expressed no
concern for the spiritual welfare of the Canaanites, Samaritans,
Romans, and the others.

Only at the very end of the Gospels is His message universa-
lized, suspiciously like an add-on by its authors.

Regardless, certainly the early apostles after His death
acted on this universal message, going to the “Gentiles” in Asia
Minor, Greece, Rome, Egypt, Ethiopia and India.

Devout Jews continue to look for the coming of the
“Messiah”, defined in different ways by different individuals.

And the Judaism of the temple: High Priest, Priest Levites
and animal sacrifices has been succeeded by Rabbinical Judaism,
centered in synagogues around the world.

Moslems, on the other hand, consider it blasphemy that Allah
should father a human son, and insist that there is but one
indivisible God, a spiritual God without human form.

The Old Testament portrays the Patriarchs as real people,
together with their warts and failings, in an uncritical, forgi-
ving way.

On the other hand, the New Testament is relentless in its
puritanism. If a person transgresses the law of God, that person
is forgiven only if sincerely contrite, but at the same time
admonished to “sin no more”.

One of the damnable aspects of religion–and indicative of
the shallowness of not practicing what is preached–is the cruel-
ty and inhumanity of its adherents towards one another, and other
people.

European history is one long story of constant warfare and
conflict between various factions and groupings of Christiandom.

Moslem history in the Middle East and Northern Africa is not
much better. In fact, the news today is that violent Islamic
fundamentalism is being feared by the Moslem societies at large.

And yet the alternatives, agnosticism or atheism, have
proved futile, as in the case of modern communism.

To fill the void of preaching that “religion is the opiate
of the masses”, communism promoted the cult of revering its
leaders, like Lenin or Mao Tse Tung.

With the collapse of European communism, just how hollow the
moral fibre of the people, and just how strong were their latent
feelings for something more substantial has been revealed.

All major religions are basically ancient, from Hinduism in
3000 BC to Islam in 630 AD.

Although supernatural “miracles” are the proof that a
particular religion is true and valid, miracles since 630 AD are
scarce and hard to come by.

And even eyewitnesses to past miracles were not convinced.

Witness the back-sliding of the Israelites in the Sinai
Desert after a multitude of miracles on their behalf.

Witness the antagonism of the Jews to Jesus’ many miracles
over a three year period.

Troubling, although the New Testament states that “his fame
spread throughout the land”, there is virtually no mention of
even His existence in the chronicles of His time.

The Jewish historian Josephus seems to refer to Him. Then
there is the Roman historian Tacitus, the Roman Pliny the Young-
er, and that’s about it outside the numerous writings by the
people who believed on Him in the religious sense.

It is almost as if there was a deliberate policy to not bear
witness to the historical Jesus outside of the gospels.

Regardless, the impact of Jesus and His teachings upon
mankind is well nigh incalculable. Today, adherents are found
throughout the world, the Christian calendar is followed virtual-
ly everywhere, in many non-Christian nations Sunday is observed
as the day of rest.

World-wide, 1,783,660,000 persons are Christian; followed
by 950,726,000 Moslems; 884,468,000 “non-religious”;
719,269,000 Hindus; 309,127,000 Buddhists; 236,809,000 atheists
(1992).

The last figure, 5% of the world’s population, tracks with
the 4% of Americans who say they do not believe in God.

Certainly within recent years, particularly in the United
States since 1933, there has been a rise in what I will call
“secular Christianity”.

On all fronts, Americans are being sensitized to considera-
tion of the rights, concerns and needs of others, particularly to
treat others in the way that these others would like to be
treated.

In a secularized society, we are being urged to follow the
second of Jesus’ fundamental commandments, to love our
neighbors
as ourselves.

Actually, more than urged. Laws are stretched right and
left by actvist groups and the courts to force people and busi-
nesses to lean over backwards to accommodate the slightest of
torts.

A contradiction to this consideration for others is that
many feel no longer responsible for their own actions – or inac-
tions. This disease seems to have affected all classes.

Among the upper classes, lying and cheating are common, and
if caught, the standard answer is “I’m sorry” – sounding so
sincere and sorry that it seems to mean “I am sorry I was
caught”.

Marital vows are so meaningless that 50% of American mar-
riages end in divorce.

Among the lower classes, particularly the “underclasses”,
the mayhem caused by drug addiction, poverty and despair has
reached epidemic proportions.

13 year olds shooting anybody, nameless “fathers” impregna-
ting 11 year old girls, 1.5 million abortions a year.

Realistically, the established church must be judged a fail-
ure.

Realistically, modern American democracy and its society
must be judged a failure. No wonder the Ayatollahs of Iran rail
against the United States as the “Great Satan”. No wonder a
number of middle class immigrants are returning to their coun-
tries of origins because they do not want their children raised
in America.

Realistically, we are light years away from the millennium
prophesied in the Old Testament and Revelations.

And yet we can take a sheet of paper and list on the one
side all the good things in life, all the good in people, all the
good happenings in the world.

And then turn it over, and list on the other side all the
bad things in life, all the bad in people, all the bad happenings
in the world.

The bottom line, for us as individuals, is that we can
accept the great moral teachings of Jesus as dictums upon which
to pattern our living. He said that He has come that we may live
more abundantly.

This is not “prosperity” Christianity, this is an abundance
of spiritual living that brings deep satisfaction to the soul,
that lasts a lifetime until its end on earth.

In deference to the good people of other faiths, who prac-
tice the same universal moral teachings in their daily lives, the
rewards are the same.

One of the saddest indictments of Christianity was Mohatma
Gandhi’s reply to group of Indian missionaries, to wit, “If it
weren’t for the Christians, I would be a Christian”.
Man and God

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