Sunday, September 14, 2014
God doesn't write books
September 14, 2014
I'm not sure how the rumor ever got started, to be honest with you. Omnipotent deity creates the universe and everything in it, fashions time and space and the laws that guide it, and then when he's all done, he says, "I think I'd like to write a book now."
Really? I mean...really?
I grew up with the Bible (with so-called Old and New Testaments), just as I understand people in other places grew up with just the Torah, or the Hebrew Scriptures with the Torah, or the Koran, or the Tao Te Ching, or the Bhagavad Gita, or any of several other holy books. I was told that the words written inside were quite literally written or dictated by God Himself (the capital H was apparently very important).
And then, as time went on, I slowly realized this was actually kind of ridiculous.
God wrote a book? And not those other books billions of people instead follow for their religion? And God wanted these truths to be followed, and no others? It just seemed a little too simple for me, the more I thought about it. It all seemed a bit too limited for the creator of all to have written or inspired.
God, I decided once and for all, was bigger than this, and smarter than this. God could not be described and confined to just this one book, no matter how thick it was.
Maybe it's because I just watched the movie Philomena last night, in which some nasty nuns did some horrible things in the name of God. Or maybe it was because an Orthodox Jewish friend of mine down in Florida is struggling with his burgeoning homosexuality right now, in a Yeshiva that simply would not tolerate him or his sickness if he dared to ever come out. Or maybe it's just that both of these situations reminded me of the crap I had to go through as a monk, when I was told whistling was forbidden in the monastery, that I was wrong for voting for Al Gore, and that the Holy Spirit and not medicine would cure my serious illness.
The truth is, religion and its books are not infallible. In fact, the only proof I see over history is that they are all very, very fallible! Religion is about defining God, and telling human beings exactly what God believes, because unlike any of us, some religious folk seem to have just been given the gift of knowledge, and wanted to share it with us all out of the goodness of their hearts or something.
I hate to use the word bullshit, yet so much of it really is. At the same time though, I do believe in God, and I do believe a lot of what people have written about God and spirituality in general is true. I've just come to see over time how much work I have to do to find those diamonds amidst the coal, and to pull back all that tissue paper to find the gift inside. As Dr. Rentaro Hashimoto, chair of the Philosophy department at Manhattan College once told me, "Usually what 'they' say is valuable, but what's valuable is usually surrounded by garbage."
I truly love God, and I care very much about the search for God and spirit in my lifetime. But I'm done with any fixed belief system that thinks it's got the whole truth and nothing but the truth, especially if they think everyone else is just wrong.
I'm not sure how the rumors ever got started that God was in the book-writing business, but man, can't we all just wake up already? We can be Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, or any other religion, and we can do so with more open minds, appreciating and respecting a faith journey of any kind as one of several paths to the same destination.
Most of all, can we please just stop stop loving any thing in this world (books, flags, and creeds inclusive) more than we love our fellow human beings? God doesn't write books. People do. And that should have been our first clue that there was a pretty good chance some things would get lost in translation!