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April 2004 (Updated by the 15th)



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Photo Copyright © John B. “GOD THROUGH THE CHILDREN”
by Jessica Kuzmier

     Many people claim that their version of whom God is represents the “truth”. Their evidence comes in the form of visions, various scriptures, or the fact that they found someone that agrees with then about what God “should” be, whatever conception that happens to be. Depending on whom you ask, God is an avenger, God is a father, God is love, or God is the universe. He is everything, to some. Or he is nothing, or may as well be; since he doesn’t seem to be much interested in alleviating the suffering of humanity. Or he is she, it, they, them or us. It all depends on whom you ask.

     It would seem, based on this, that the existence of God, is to some extent a product of one’s imagination. So, too, would the idea of the lack of God’s existence. This is a fundamental tenet of empirical philosophy. Along with “I think, therefore I am”, many Philosophy 101 courses will teach that the only logical theocratic belief is agnosticism, which states that there is no evidence in the existence of God, or the lack of it. Although this statement is likely to raise ire in devout believers of all persuasions, an objective look at this observation, once tempers have calmed, shows that it is not as blasphemous as it sounds. All faiths are just that; faith itself. Faith is “evidence of things unseen”, a patently unempirical statement. Determining spiritual truth, then, is not the same as discovering scientific truth. The criteria are more subjective, even more distorted than the paradigms used in scientific discovery, which incidentally, is nearly just as divisive as to what constitutes scientific truth or not.

     History is replete with individuals and groups who use God as a weapon or means to fulfill their objectives. Obvious cultic leaders like Jim Jones culled their caricature of God to fit the needs of those they wished to dominate, in order to make their subjects all the more dependent on them for guidance. But less dramatic and violent examples abound in just recent decades alone; many people tune in daily the Christian Broadcast Network and other cable stations that have people willing to tell them the tidbit of the day from God.

     What many of these people are looking for is solid ground on which to carve out their faith. It can be disconcerting for people to go through the travails of life, feeling concrete pain and suffering, plead to a deity to hear them, and have the experience that the only thing that is hearing them is their own echo. Having a person convincing him that this is the right God, this is the real truth, or this is the real thing can at least bring some sense of clarity in a life that is otherwise shaken. Even barring major calamity, not being to adequately answer the question “What am I doing here? What is the purpose of all this?”, with logic alone will have a person seek his answers in a concrete set of answers.

     The reality of all this is that one person’s truth is another person’s nonsense. Even if one is willing to use the same text, he can come up with entirely different beliefs than another person. For example, take the dietary laws in Leviticus defining unclean food. There are historians such as Riane Eisler who believe that denouncing the pig has more to do with outlawing goddess worship than actual uncleanness, seeing that the pig was revered in prehistory societies that practiced matriarchal spirituality. Nutritionists such as Jordan Rubin, who healed himself of Crohn’s disease through diet, believe that meat defined as unclean in Leviticus is actually toxic and physically harmful; in other words, the Creator knew what He was talking about. Many Jews choose to see dietary laws as a dictate from Yahweh to test the faithfulness of his people, analogous to His asking Adam and Eve to take it on faith not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And many Christians see it as the law that held people in bondage until Jesus came and paid for the world’s sins by his death and resurrection, changing the requirement of salvation from the law to justification.

     It seems obvious on some level that truth can be something that is invented. Try as one might, there is no concrete way for any one person to have evidence beyond measure that his interpretation is the “right” way, be it about something mundane as what’s the best restaurant in Soho, or defining God is and what He requires. Therefore, God’s personality is very much determined by the person who is claiming a belief in the Deity. A punitive god would perhaps be a god that serves a person who feels that there has to be explicit rights and wrongs in the world. In order to maintain this dictum of exact right and wrong, strict discipline must be administered to remind people of what the rules are, if not to actually compel them to believe along those lines. This is where many people allow themselves to put aside what they believe is right to do something completely outside their frame of intuition. An authoritarian believer might hone in on biblical scriptures which admonish a man that he has to deny self, put his sinful self to the cross, and sell everything in order to be a real follower of God. He might feel that not to do so would be at his spiritual detriment. But though it may seem to an outsider that he is “throwing his life away”, by following stringent laws, he is satisfying some sense that needs strict order in his life. A life of laws, that has a punitive God that will set things right when his children goes astray, gives him some semblance of sanity in a world that seems to constantly go off course.

     Similarly, one can conjure up a God full of love and mercy, one who is compassionate in all that man does and feels the pain that each person on the planet feels. This experience of God usually translates to some level of feeling that all people are part of some type of benevolent brotherhood under the umbrella of a Loving Parent, and that all problems would be rectified by deep empathy and compassion. He can read the Bible, even the so-called “vengeful God” texts in the Old Testament, and see a god who is full of caring and everlasting love.

     It is not that the person in the first example is devoid of compassion, nor does it mean that the person in the second example does not seek out have a need for right or wrong in the form of specific dicta. It simply means that each person’s definition of God sets a general standard as to how he conducts his life. This is no different than the dynamics of the family, where one experiences a more authoritarian structure in his parents, and another person experiences a more lenient structure. There is some evidence that these childhood events contribute to one’s concept of God. It carries the projection of one’s parents are onto the Ultimate Parent. This can lead to severance of ties with the deity, or a deep abiding faith that seems to transcend any external calamity.

     The relationship that each person has with God, or the lack of it, can be boiled down to a the dynamic between parent and child. The child may not understand his parent’s motives, trust his parent, or believe that his parent is worth the authority given him. But yet he is locked into a relationship with the parent, even when he cuts ties with him or her, or does not believe that a relationship is important, in that he hears everyone else enmeshed one way or another with their parents. Even atheists and agnostics are locked into a relationship with their type of god by their questioning or disbelief. It can be said those abstract concepts are a substitute for a concrete deity, and the concept of authoritarianism versus mercy still applies in their case. These beliefs are their ultimate parent, in that they use them as a type of spiritual North Star. In the Ten Commandments, the first commandment dealing with relationships between humans is dealing with one's parents, even before the admonition against murder. Perhaps it is because this commandment functions as a sort of bridge commandment between the Ultimate Parent and the human world at large. The presumed deity that dictated the Commandments, as well as the humans that translated them, knew that God, the Creator, functioned on a fundamental level as a parent, and the human world as the children.

     In seeking the truth, each person walks through a quagmire of his own psyche to find what is right. What he chooses to find is a function of what he think he needs to align himself in the larger scheme of things, be it law or mercy. He seeks his own refuge in his belief of truth, trying to find his place in the family of human beings, defining for himself what the larger picture means, what his purpose is, and whether there is Someone or Something out there that is out there watching, and whether his life has any meaning to that Person.

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