Email this page to a friend

Maybe God is Not the Fool You Think He Is
Mark A. Goldman                                                                Revised:  5/19/2010

Some say the Bible is a holy text, the true word of God.  For Christians, there’s a certain almost magical quality that attaches to the Bible.  The same is true for the followers of other religions and their “holy" texts. 

I would argue that the true magical quality attributable to religious texts, is not that any given text reveals God’s truth, but rather that it magically reveals the reader’s truth—the attitudes, state of mind, and morality of those who claim to know how God thinks.  Their sense of morality, they believe, is the true and correct attitude to have as demonstrated by selected stories or words in their holy scripture to which they can refer.  Interestingly enough, one can find language in the Bible to justify just about any point of view one might look for.   

In practice, each person chooses his or her favorite theme or text and calls those selected portions of scripture, “the Truth.”  And so readers can easily find portions of scripture that “prove” God is vengeful, loving, jealous, forgiving, angry, war like, compassionate, or whatever.  And unsurprisingly, they prefer that characterization of God that best matches their own attitude and state of mind.

Some people actually believe that God would condemn a person to eternal pain and suffering for not understanding, accepting, believing, or having faith in, a particular belief system before some arbitrary deadline.  What would be the point?  Has God no compassion or understanding?  Only someone who still has a lot to learn would believe that He would do such a thing.  People conveniently create God in their image and then claim that it was God who created them in His.

Any self-proclaimed teacher of scripture reveals to those who are thoughtful and listen critically, what that person’s state of consciousness is.  Some people’s views make God out to be an idiot, thereby revealing the truth about themselves… and nothing at all about God.  Even people who have developed extraordinary persuasive skill at convincing others of the “truth” of their convictions can become trapped in their own illusions and self-delusions—perhaps even more so because they have those skills.

Jesus was not a Christian.  He didn’t believe or teach that he was God.  He didn’t ask to be worshipped.  He didn’t start a new religion.  All he did was set the record straight:  that God is not the hypocritical self-serving, jealous, cruel, vengeful fool that some political, religious, and corporate leaders are... and also claim He is.  Most Christians do not follow Jesus; they follow the teachings of those who came later offering their  interpretation of what his message was and what their response to his life should be.   Most of the central and minor characters who came later never did agree with one another on important issues, dividing themselves into separate camps, each camp believing what they want to believe and then holding those beliefs to be “the Truth.” 

The only way to fully understand what Jesus knew and/or tried to teach would be to become what he was.  But beware:   if you blindly accept what others say he was, you might never unlearn the misinformation you think you already “know.” If you have been instructed to have “faith” in what others tell you is the truth, that could keep you stuck in illusion for a long time, because what they tell you might have as its purpose more to do with having you look up to them as an authority, rather than to help you learn how to think and discover for yourself what you want or need to know about God.  

How does one unlearn a point of view one has made a commitment to have faith in?  It's not wise to make a commitment to believe forever, something other people tell you is true.  The truth is something each person has to discover for themselves. And when you look for the truth with intellectual integrity you'll notice that over time it changes... it changes as you expand and deepen your understanding of yourself and others.

Everyone who claims to “know” what happened and what was said 2,000 or 5,000 years ago is far removed in time and space from those real or imaginary events.  What we call history are the views of historians and others that have been accepted as “truth” by large numbers of people—people often politically motivated—people who have a vested interest in having you accept one version of the truth over another—and also people who never really gave it much thought. 

Can you imagine Jesus believing or saying that, “The bible, which will be written long after I’m gone, will be the true word of God.”  Jesus could not transfer his knowledge to others by telling them what he knew.  To believe is not the same thing as to know.  He could only point to a path which if taken by others might result in the same experience or knowledge he had acquired… knowledge he wanted them to have for themselves.  Jesus knew that none of his followers could tell others “the Truth” from their own experience.   But obviously he hoped one day that they might.

I’ve been told by people who call themselves Christians that their financial success is due to the fact that God approves of them and their behavior and that’s why they have been so blessed with success… while poor people are poor because that’s what, in God’s eyes, they deserve too.  Like I said… people tend to believe what they want to believe.  Oddly enough, those beliefs tend to be conveniently self serving.  How does any person know that his or her success or failure is not simply a test of their own character rather than a reward or punishment for how they think or have behaved?  Maybe God works in mysterious ways. 

Of course believing in fantasy is not unique to Christians.  I only mention Christianity because currently in our culture Christian spokespersons of all kinds happen to dominate that portion of the air waves dedicated to religious themes.  We’ve all heard stories of how Islamic radicals were told that if they will willingly blow themselves up in the name of their religion that God will reward them in heaven by offering them the services of x numbers of virgins (or some such nonsense).  If those stories are true, one wonders why those who would do such violence to themselves and others never ask themselves where God is going to get all these virgins or why God would unjustly discredit these zealots and these virgins by making them available to one another without benefit of marriage.  The self-serving belief by men that God approves of the unequal and unjust treatment of women is widely held.  But maybe God is not the jerk some men think He is.

Some Jews have been able to convince themselves that God would approve of their persecution of Palestinians through any number of vile acts that more enlightened human beings would consider reprehensible, such as destroying the home and livelihood of an entire family for an alleged illegal act of one family member.  How does one justify the building of Jewish settlements on Palestinian soil?  God is not a liar or a cheat any more than God is a fool, an idiot, or a sadist.  But somehow otherwise highly educated people are able to convince themselves that God would approve of behavior that any impartial observer can see is reprehensible, dishonest, and morally bankrupt.  If God had ever promised Jews that they would live in peace in Israel, one wonders if He would have changed his mind by now after observing how so many of his so-called chosen people have dishonored and discredited themselves.

Any astute observer can see that it is quite common for religious followers to be taught, (for the self-serving purposes of their teachers), that God is as nasty, irresponsible, unthinking, and unjust as their teachers are.  There apparently is no end to the monstrous acts that some people will perpetrate, or approve of, which they try to justify by finding words in scripture that "demonstrate" God would approve. The commandment, "Thou shall not kill" is a pretty straight forward declaration and yet somehow students of scripture are able to find any number of exceptions to the rule. So much for the true word of God.  

Believing in foolishness and worshipping false gods is a kind of prison which one can unconsciously enter and remain trapped in for a long time—a prisoner of one’s own belief system—supported by others who are similarly self-imprisoned.  To escape that trap one must muster the courage to use their God given abilities to think for themselves while adhering to a high level of intellectual honesty and integrity.  Not always an easy thing to do in our culture.

Now I understand that there are times when a person might come to feel so lost and downtrodden that it only seems right and proper to support them—at least for awhile—in seeking refuge and solace in the lies, illusions and false hopes that they were taught to believe in.  But on the whole, it’s still the honest search for the truth and not well meaning lies or illusions that remains the key to one’s own freedom and salvation as well as the freedom and salvation of others. 

Teaching people that Jesus is going to return and rule like a king might not be the most effective way to help this planet become a more hospitable place to live.  To believe Jesus would be interested in such a job is quite presumptuous and highly unlikely.  How would that work exactly in practice?  Does God not believe in democracy?  One day people might discover that when they are moved to pray to God for help, it is really God praying to them to use their brain… to think of something useful to do that really might help… and go out and make the effort.

Learning how to be a thoughtful, compassionate, responsible human being is what it means to grow up.  Some people never do.  Some people take longer than others to mature spiritually, emotionally, or intellectually simply because they become trapped in religion’s illusions and stupidities.  If you are inspired by and find value participating in your religion, fine.  Religion can sometimes actually serve a useful purpose.  Just try not to have it corrupt your morals, intellect, integrity, or sense of self.  God is real and not a myth.  You don’t need to join a church, mosque, or synagogue to find God.  God is already closer to you than your own breath.  

Have a little faith.




Return to Commentaries