In my reading last evening, I was reminded of the close-minded nature of many versions and types of monotheistic religions. I was raised a Protestant Christian, for example, so I’ll speak only from my own experience:
“The only way to salvation is to accept Christ as savior and achieve forgiveness through him.”
“We are born in sin.”
“In Heaven only perfection exists, and we are all imperfect.”
The restrictions and limitations go on-and-on, but you get the idea. It’s likely that everyone reading this was raised, regardless of which church you attended, with similar ideas. It seems that there are as many “Only Way”s as there are religions, or even denominations. From my youth, I’ve had a very deep issue with these ideas. Even infants, we’re told, are impure and unworthy unless cleansed in Christ’s (symbolic) blood. So, the God whom I’ve been taught IS love and “so loved the world” damns even those who have had no exposure to His word? Third world children born into hunger and filth deserve damnation simply because they were born? Ancient aboriginal cultures across the world have been sent to hell for millennia simply because they didn’t know?
We’re even told that eternal damnation to the fiery pits of hell for our sins is PROOF of God’s love. For his love keeps Heaven pure and perfect, and gives us mere sinners something to strive for.
Is it any wonder that so many people rebel from the idea that they are inherently flawed and unworthy of existence? Can it really be considered surprising that millions recoil from in-born exclusion from eternity?
It is my thought that atheism was born from this “my-way-or-the-highway” dogma that’s prevalent in so many of the world’s monotheistic religions.
One can hardly blame people for backing away from the concept of a vengeful, jealous, insecure deity who doles out his gifts and favors only to those who worship and prostrate themselves before him. Sounds like a pharaoh to me. Or any earthly demagogue. Certainly not like a loving, benevolent Creator.
Could it possibly be that humans have created, in their need to justify their own unsavory and base emotional needs, a “God” with those very same needs? Could it be that churches the world over, regardless of which “god” they’re built to follow, use this need for a god who shares our instabilities and weaknesses to cow and control their flocks? Is it just possible that the richest institutions on the planet came to be so through the gifts of those they shepherded into “tithing” of their personal fortunes?
Many, even most, churches do wonderful work in this world with the moneys tithed to them. Saintly, Godly work. I’m not questioning that and I’m certainly not condemning it. Any good, charitable work is worthy of my and your gratitude and support. The idea that the institutions may be flawed in concept does nothing to diminish the many, many good works they do.
Still, in their withdrawing from the idea of begging for forgiveness and in taking personal responsibility for their place in this world, the atheists have it right.
Not that there isn’t a God, for of course and obviously there is, but the idea that God is separate from us, and that God is some grandfatherly white male sitting on a heavenly throne doling out his favors according to who gives the most or sacrifices more greatly is one of the most heinous and limiting lies ever told, and we as a people, always ready to believe in our own limits and flaws, have swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.
God is EVERYTHING. God is the air you’re breathing right now. God is the dirt you planted your bell peppers in. God is the pigeon cooing on your window sill. God is you. And me. God is the inimitable sunrise and the terrifying storm. Even Christ said “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”‘? (John 10:34).
Every night, as I drift off to sleep, I affirm verbally my status as a part of God. I have the same creative power within my life as God has. I accept responsibility for every negative event in my life and I give myself credit for every positive event as well. I live in and constantly express my gratitude and therefore am continuously presented with more to be grateful for.
God lives in me, and God lives in you. I don’t care WHO you are. God lives and lived in every human and every rabbit and every tree that ever existed. Each lived their manifestations on this earth and then moved on, just as do we. Our human need for punishment and justice is just that, a human need.
I’ve heard it said many, many times in my life: “There’s a special kind of hell reserved for _____.” My personal take is that to believe that is its own special kind of hell. To darken your heart with a desire for another to suffer eternally is a hell all its own. Instead, choose (it is always a choice) to love and forgive. Your hatred and vengeance and lust for another’s suffering doesn’t punish anyone but yourself, darkening your own path and affecting no one else’s in any way.
There is a God. God loves you. God loves atheists. God loves dictators. God exists in all of us, including those in whom we perceive only darkness. Consider making the effort to see God in everyone you encounter. Seeing God in the soaring hawk and in the changing leaves is relatively easy, but try seeing divinity in the jerk who stole your parking spot. Look for God in the guy at work who swipes your lunch from the communal fridge.
See holiness in the dead eyes of the murderer on trial on network television.
God is there. As surely as God is in the sunset, God is there as well. Don’t hate even there; don’t spend the glory and beauty of your soul on hatred. Not even there.