Let’s face it: the truth is the only time any of us will absolutely know for certain who or what God really is, is when we finally leave this planet, moving on to the next dimension. For centuries mystics have reported that the reality of God is truly unknowable. Nonetheless, throughout recorded history men and women have shared their opinions and viewpoints about the essence of God, the Creator, the All-That-Is, and so on.
Why – since the dawning of human life – have people continually theorized about God’s nature? Simply put, deep within each of us there is a strong yearning to know where we come from, and to where we will ultimately go whenever we do leave this treasured planet. While that longing exists in all people, many tend to block it out because it is too complex to think about when more pressing day to day concerns surround them. Others ignore the longing because they don’t know quite how to reflect or where to look for the answers. Coming to an understanding of the true nature of God often takes a backseat to earning the day-to-day living and dealing with the challenges associated with human relationships. Because of these obstacles, many people in the so-called ‘civilized world’ have chosen to look to traditional religion for answers.
In a typical Western religion, God is usually depicted as a “white-bearded male who roams around the sky creating the world.” This God is a Being that controls all things occurring in the Universe, knows exactly what everyone does, and is aware when His laws or commandments are being broken. The idea of punishment for one’s sins is at the foundation of this view of God; this God/Father holds us accountable for our wrongdoing. The errors we make are then “judged by various interpreters of his laws who throughout history have claimed access to the Divine.”
Over the centuries, a great many people have accepted the words of these privileged interpreters (e.g., priests, ministers, rabbis, religious scholars) as absolute truth; to doubt – in any way – the validity of their interpretations would be considered a sin. It is interesting that most people are unwilling to either question the authority of these individuals, or to be skeptical concerning the religious texts that allegedly contain the “Word of God.” Why?
It is often far simpler to accept this information as ‘truth’ than to take the time and energy to question it. Organized religions often effectively wrap everything up in a nice package, requiring little, if any, serious contemplation by followers regarding the nature of existence. Stuart Wilde in The Quickening, illustrates the general willingness to blindly accept religious dogma as absolute truth.
“If you knew nothing about Christianity and you had never heard of the Bible, you would pick up the book and ask the critical question, ‘Who wrote this stuff?’ Err, well, actually no one knows. But, it’s the sacred channeled word of God.”
The very questioning of the origin of the Bible is often considered sacrilegious by many a devout Christian, but is it unreasonable to want to know who wrote such an important literary work? Of course not. It is not solid reasoning, in my view, to simply accept the entire Bible as the “Word of God,” solely because a religion or religions say that it is. Why not? Because it has a number of inconsistencies and contradictions. For example, the Old Testament contains a fair share of violence with turmoil, and includes memorable passages such as the oft-quoted “an eye for an eye,” while the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament include admonitions such as “love ye one another” and “turn the other cheek.” Which of these clearly conflicting messages, then, is the actual Word of God? Or, are we to assume that God has different rules for different periods of time?
Within the New Testament itself there are discrepancies, most notably four separate Gospels that each tells a different version of the same story. If the Gospels in the New Testament are actually the sacred inspired words of God, then why are they not more consistent in their content? Once again, according to Stuart Wilde in The Quickening:
“One would have to presume that either God had an incredibly poor memory, or he had some kind of cosmic twitch whereby every decade or so he would sit bolt upright and, for no explainable reason, blurt out the story he told years back, forgetting what he said the last time.”
While Mr. Wilde’s comment certainly has a tongue-in-cheek flavor, his observation is nonetheless thought-provoking. One possible explanation is that the four Gospels were not literally the inspired words of God, but instead a collection of stories written and then passed on from generation to generation. This could explain the inconsistency of the content – as should be fairly obvious to anyone – that stories which are handed down tend to change over time, as each storyteller adds his or her own interpretation and personal flavor to the material.
So, does the preceding commentary imply that there is nothing of value in the Bible, or in any other of the major religious texts for that matter? By no means; there is no doubt that religious texts contain meaningful and helpful information; the key is to discern which of it is of value to you as you move along your path of self-discovery.
I have personally found some aspects of the Psalms in the Old Testament (e.g., the 23rd and 91st Psalms) to be of value in my spiritual growth, as well as some excerpts from the Book of Job. For example, one of the most powerful quotations within the Book of Job, is when Job says, “the thing I feared has come upon me,” (Job 3:25); a statement which I believe refers to the power of our thoughts to attract to us whatever we focus upon – whether we consciously want it or not. That quote helped make me more mindful of how important it is to remain aware of what I am concentrating my thought and feeling energies upon, so as to not let fear or negativity dominate my consciousness. From this passage, I also came to the critical realization that worrying was a total waste of energy, and therefore extremely counterproductive.
This is just one example of the valuable information that is available in the Holy Bible, and without question, other prominent religious texts (e.g., the Koran, the Kabbalah, and so on) provide worthy content as well. Basically, the important thing is to approach these texts with a discerning attitude that leads you to accept only that information which makes sense to you, and which, in your heart, feels right to you.
In the end, the answer to the question “who or what is God?” is actually something we each must identify for ourselves as we walk our individual paths of spiritual growth. In this regard, the following passage from Michael Newton’s book Destiny of Souls confirms how very important it is for each of us to come up with our own answers:
“Because each of us is a unique being different from all others, it is incumbent upon those who desire internal peace to find their own spirituality. When we totally align ourselves to belief systems based upon the experience of other people, I feel we lose something of our individuality in the process. The road to self-discovery and shaping a philosophy not designed by the doctrines of organizations takes effort but the rewards are great.”
(The preceding article is an adapted excerpt from Spirituality Simplified, Copyright 2002 & 2014, by Jeff Maziarek.)
About the Author
Jeff Maziarek is an inspirational speaker and author. His first book, Spirituality Simplified is an easy-to-understand and entertaining work that provides an ideal starting point for anyone with a sincere desire to pursue a path of personal and/or spiritual growth. His second book, Codi’s Journey, is a memoir about his beloved Border Collie who passed away in 2005.
Spirituality Simplified is available on Amazon.com in both print and eBook formats. Codi’s Journey also can be purchased on Amazon.com in both print and eBook formats and on BarnesandNoble.com in eBook format . To subscribe to Jeff’s free daily inspirational emails called “PONDER on THIS,” please visit his Pondercentral website.