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”.

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