Although believers in God outnumber those who don’t, atheism
remains on the rise around the world, especially in the U.S. Even more are those considering themselves non-religious and the two combined now outgrow believers by a faster pace.About 40% of Americans consider themselves atheists or non-believers while the percentage of believers has dropped to 60% and the gap is closing.(Gallup Poll, August 15, 2012, Christian Science Monitor)
When I read or hear these reports, I ask myself, “Why does this trend keep growing around the world?” I assume people keep deciding the ideas of God taught or picked up in society are irrelevant, dangerous and even repugnant. My own ideas of God evolved over the years and to many of my former friends, I would be presently considered an “unbeliever,” as I am no longer comfortable with most former beliefs. So what or who is my idea of God?
I begin by understanding God as an idea. By definition God represents one’s allegiance to an idea which guides his or her thinking and actions. It could be money, power, a country, a
person, or an object which determines our basic thinking toward actions to bring us pleasure and freedom. Our inward perceptions become our outward projections toward the world around us. Whatever they are, they become our idol or idols, the source of decision-making.
The idea I have of God is Spirit, unknown or beyond definition yet everywhere present. Among various ideas presented in the 4th century book called the Bible, God is defined as Spirit. “God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and Truth.”(Gospel of John, chapter 4, verse 24) This “Truth”, seen in many Biblical ideas, is often an extremely angry, punishing, and vindictive idea toward those who do not believe or conform. Islamic ideas of God or Allah also emphasize His Justice and Mercy, but like Christianity become judgmental and punishing to those who reject Him. Both are based in Judaism which also contain God ideas which appear bipolar in swinging from eternal love to eternal hate. In Eastern Religions, Hindus refer to God as Atman, “unborn, undying, never ceasing, never beginning,
changeless and eternal.” Buddhists refuse to give God any name since the goal is to reach “Nirvana” or peace with the sense of detachment and total freedom. To define God is to lose God and the Higher Self becomes known only through the experience or practice of love and compassion to all sentient beings.
One of my late teachers Anthony DeMello taught me that when you seek to define or “make” a God, try to at least make sure the idea is among the very best among us. Make the idea become the greatest love possible; a forgiving, kind, and patient Entity. He criticized his own Christian tradition by following ideas of God as vengeful and wrathful, one who wipes out billions of souls in eternal damnation, ideas still prevalent in today’s Christianity. These are not noble ideas of God but projections of our egocentric fears of Identification with bodies and temporal possessions.
What then is God? God is a “no-thing” or “Nothing,” nothing like anything we can see, touch, or think. God just Is as Spirit everywhere, beyond forms, beliefs, creeds and buildings. Such belief in a No-Thing translates more easily into love, a love which
sees or senses beyond mortality and forms to a mysterious and liberating Oneness. Of course, it is practice which brings the experience. It is experienced in silent mediations and stillness, focusing on a word or just the breath. “Be still and know I am God”, a verse from the Hebrew psalm, a verse quoted by my first teachers in India to explain their purpose and ideas to me. It
then becomes the practice of living the Presence of the Unknowable, treating others with acceptance and forgiveness rather than as outward sources in our thirst for love.
So believe in a God or ultimate purpose but with the most noble
and highest qualities. And whether a “believer” or not, find the deepest experience of peace, bliss and joy by practicing
forgiveness, love, compassion and kindness with all. Remember or think of yourself not as body with separate mind, but as Spirit, together in Mind with all the universe, beyond time and space.
As always, comments and questions welcomed.