The battle lines have formed and the combatants have already begun exchanging volleys in mortal debate. We’re being asked to choose sides, for if we are to believe the protagonists, neutrality is no longer an option. The war is the growing rift between believers in God and atheists, who claim there is no God. The two protagonists maintain that this is the ultimate battle between faith and reason, between creationism and evolution, determining whether we live in a God-inspired or a random creation.
Best-selling authors Christopher Hitchens (“God Is Not Great”) and Sam Harris (“The End of Faith”) argue that religion is the source of most of the world’s ills and that a growing segment of humanity is voicing discontent with “the endless lectures by bogus clerics and endless bullying” in the name of religion.
Meanwhile, fundamental religious thought is increasingly gaining voice. In the United States, religious protests against teaching evolution abound, stem-cell research has been curtailed, and the Federal Supreme Court recently upheld a national ban on partial-birth abortion. Political theocracies now control or influence a significant proportion of the world’s population, and even more of the world’s oil.
I am more than a little concerned by the vehement rhetoric and arrogance of both sides. Each claims the moral high ground in what they see as a simple, black-or-white issue. Before you are tempted to defend one side over the other, however, I suggest considering a third possibility in which neither prevails.
When people ask if I am religious, I answer: “Of course not. I love God far too much to believe in religion.” When they comment that then I must believe in God, I respond, “Of course not. What’s to believe? Does a fish believe in water?” This may sound like double-speak, but to me, it is crystal clear.
The argument between atheist and religionist hinges on an unconscious assumption made by both: that God is a noun. Virtually all religions view God as the creator—and the earth and its inhabitants, the firmament, and the rest of the universe as His (or Her or Its) creation. This curiously myopic view fuels the great debate concerning God’s existence. It gives rise to the separatism, competition, and ill-will that mark the bloody trail of humankind through history. It also lies at the heart of the niggling discontent humans feel as they pray to some perceived higher power to deliver them from suffering or grant their wishes for a better life.
I remember a rabbi in New York showing me a belt buckle that belonged to a Nazi soldier in World War II. Around the swastika emblazoned on the tarnished brass were the words Gott Mit Uns (God with Us). Hitler used this motto to help solidify the support of Christians, who comprised the majority of the German population.
It is difficult to distinguish between Hitler’s God and the God of the British, the Americans, or the Italians. It is even more baffling to ascribe His (or Her or Its) imprint on the ultimate outcome of that global war. Was it God’s intention that some 72 million people – both combatants and civilians – lost their lives? Or was God not paying attention and the tragedy got out of hand before He (or She or It) could contain it? Belief in an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent deity is a slippery slope indeed when battles and competitions rage daily in which each side invokes God to insure victory.
In fact, for us to seek God is like a fish in the ocean going in search of water. A God doesn’t exist; there is only God. There is nothing to pray to, nothing to propitiate, and nothing to obey; there is only love. God – the word we’ve chosen to indicate the Oneness whose infinite nature the human mind cannot even begin to grasp – is all that is. Everything, whether manifest or not, whether within the confines of time and space or not, whether coalesced into thought or not, is part of the Oneness. Oneness doesn’t require our permission, agreement, nor understanding to be. It just is.
Perhaps it is time to give our outmoded ways of thinking a decent burial. Perhaps it is time to free ourselves from the shackles of yesterday’s beliefs and find the courage to paint way outside the old lines, allowing our imagination free rein – just as it was always intended. Once we know that the Oneness can never be encapsulated, imaged, or even named, we are free to explore aspects of our own infinite nature in the finite matrix of form and sound. That is what human creativity has always been invited to do. So I lift my glass to both sides in this important debate: God is dead, long live God.
Jean-Claude Gerard Koven is a writer and speaker based in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. He was a featured weekly columnist for the UPI (United Press International) Religion and Spirituality Forum and is the author of Going Deeper: How to Make Sense of Your Life When Your Life Makes No Sense, recipient of both the Allbooks Reviews Editor’s Choice Award and the USABookNews.com Award for the Best Metaphysical Book of the Year.
©2004 – 2021. Jean-Claude Gerard Koven / All Rights Reserved.