This week in the Kaleidoscope Opinion Column, we are moving away from the tedium of Nigerian politics, to spice up our weekly sessions with a discussion on an issue that affects us all, an issue that is primary in shaping our thoughts, our words, our actions, our characters, our individual and collective destinies.
This week’s discourse will explore another familiar ground for me – an important issue on religious philosophy (founding philosophies of the religions) which affects individual belief systems on which are based people’s understanding and appreciation of God. This belief system may have been shaped through filial, social, cultural or religious environments of people from birth or through association.
What is theism? The Thesaurus Online Dictionary defines ‘theism’ as ‘the doctrine or belief in the existence of a God or gods’. The opposite of ‘theism’ is ‘atheism’ and this simply means non-belief in God or gods. Theistic belief system can be classified under such sub-headings as monotheism (belief in one God); polytheism (belief in multiple gods); pantheism (belief in the presence of God within God’s creations in the universe.) etc.
Let us start by first searching out a human (yes, human, because we are not actually sure) definition of God through the visibility of our finite, mortal minds. In order to accommodate divergent opinions about the nature of God, I feel comfortable to take the four definitions of God by the Thesaurus Online Dictionary because the Thesaurus Dictionary takes cognizance of the evolving consciousness of people, including their sentiments, to introduce new meanings of words to the English Lexicon. These definitions are:
- The supernatural being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent and omniscience originator and ruler of the universe; the object of worship in monotheistic religion.
- Any supernatural being worshipped as controlling some part of the world or some aspect of life or who is the personification of a force.
- A man of such supernatural qualities that he seems like a deity to other people.
- A material effigy that is worshipped.
No doubt, these definitions capture all the modern ideas of the concept of God, either they be true or false gods. But the conventional and general understanding of what is God can be seen in the Oxford Advanced Leaners Dictionary, Special Price Edition. It defines God as “a being or spirit that is believed to have power over nature and control over human affairs”. This is the idea of God that has been conveyed to most of us, having been taught us from our childhood days by our religions.
Having grown up in monotheistic environments, most of us were taught that God is the supreme, ultimate being that created the universe and rules it with infinite strength in majesty.
By the way, the definitions by the Thesaurus Online Dictionary suggest that there is a true God as well as false gods. What is the difference between a true God and false gods? We already know from the first definition of the Thesaurus Online Dictionary that the true God is omnipotent. A false god therefore, should be a god that has no synchronicity with the three permanent features of God (omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence) and lacks the noble virtues of man as recognized by all the norms, customs, traditions, cultures, laws and religions of human communities.
Apart from lacking in omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence, a false god should be a god devoid of all the noble virtues of man as recognized by all the norms, customs, traditions, cultures of human communities and these virtues include, but are not limited to mercy, compassion, justice, equity, love, kindness, non-judgmental etc.
The reader may ask: “Why am I bothered about whether people believe in God or not, or to what extend do people believe in God”. My answer is that to the extent that people understand God and believe in God, to that extent does human community respond and key-in with the purpose of God for man on earth, which is to reflect the qualities of God on earth. Reflecting the qualities of God on earth is to recreate mercy, compassion, justice, equity, love, kindness, non-judgmental, etc, and these virtues will ensure happiness, dearth of acrimony, absence of wars, as well as promote peace and harmony amongst the inhabitants of the earth.
Ordinarily, everybody would want to seek and find the true God. How can one know that one has found the true God? While we find out the answer to the last question, we will also examine the reason why most people are not benefitting from the ever expanding activities of the religions beyond the euphoric feeling of having communicated with their divine natures and God. We will also examine while greater evils are visited upon more people on earth by an increasing number of people every day in spite of the multiplicity of religious organizations around the world. As we examine these issues, we will find out why greater number of clergy men around the world are daily joining the exclusive club of multi-billionaires in spite of the fact that majority of their congregants who have not improved in their material wellbeing, have not prospered in their spiritual wellbeing.
This spiritual and material gap between the clergy and the laity gives the impression that some serious scams are going on in the church, using the name of God. Let us, therefore, find out the very origin of using the name of God to scam sincere seekers of the true God.
We cannot find out the reason for this disparity without exploring the diverse interpretations of different religious audience by their respective theologies. What is ‘theology’? “Theology” may be defined as:
- The study of God or a god or gods and the truthfulness of religion in general.
- An organized method of interpreting spiritual works and beliefs into practical form.
It is as a result of the wide interpretative freedom granted to the word “theology” as “organized method of interpreting spiritual works and beliefs into practical form” (vide: definition number 2) that a vacuum has been created in the minds of seekers enough not to construe the true nature of God. This vacuum has resulted in numerous conflicts amongst many members of the organized religions (and some people out of the religions) in the search for the true God.
In spite of this, the phenomenon called God has remained unchangeable from the pristine time, in defiance to how different people of different religions at different times perceive and understand God to be. This is the real reason why no religion practiced by man anywhere in the world is completely free of interpretative deficiency which robs it of its original nature. Not even Christianity is excluded in this deterioration of values hitherto held sacrosanct by the early Christian saints.
The challenge of setting the pristine Christian value back to form has always been taken up by Christian reformists, some of whom did that at grave risks to their repute, freedom and sometimes, life. Erasmus Roterodamus Desiderius (C.1469 – 1536) a Dutch philosopher (from Rotterdam), Basel, Switzerland, who was also a humanist and theologian (Christian scholar) was the leading renaissance scholar of Northern Europe at a time there was searchlight on some Christian doctrines suspected to have been tampered with by Kings, Princes and nobles of the emerging world.
His criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church led to the reformation of the Church. He also opposed violence in the Church and condemned Martin Luther (10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) whose efforts led the way to the founding in England in 1867 of Church of England, Anglican Communion. Before the works of Erasmus Desiderius, Christianity was almost sliding to asceticism. For example, misinterpreting the cryptic style of the injunctions and admonitions of Jesus Christ, Origen Adamantius, an early Christian Scholar, ascetic and theologian, became the first Christian to surgically remove his genitals in order to ensure the reputation of a respectable, sinless theologian. This was a literal application of the injunction of Jesus Christ to remove any of one’s ‘members’ that may cause one to sin.
Before the reformation of the Roman Catholic Church, both the Kings, Princes, nobles and successive generations of powerful Pontiffs were incriminated as putting forth overbearing corruptive influence on Church Doctrine. In this modern time, the organized Churches, so many of them now, are responsible for carefully and quietly changing the doctrine of Christianity to suit their purposes. Nowadays, the organized church has become a grand business enterprise where Christian doctrines must be interpreted and practiced to generate profits to the Church Chief Executive officers and their Directors who are their partners in the pursuit of earthly wealth.
In a previous work on this platform, I had made efforts to classify the imperatives for the complete and beneficial development of human beings on earth in a broad format of natural order of relationships. I call this broad format the Hierarchical Structure of Human Socialization. The Hierarchical Structure of Human Socialization has God at the apex and then the family (God’s first human social institution commanded and established by God) following after God as the second in the rungs of the socialization hierarchy leader. In the order of superiority, the complete structure goes like this:
- Professional colleagues
All developmental efforts of man on earth are usually achieved through harmonious relationships within these social groups in their natural orders of importance. But the organized Church – Religion – has usurped the position of God, forcing itself to the first place from the fourth position and swapping itself with God. This discourse will not be enough to point out the dangers of this usurpation, but suffice to say that this is why many Christians have become spiritual dwarfs, not keen on reaching directly to God to handle their spiritual and material problems. It makes me more angry that some sections of the organized Church has marooned many undiscerning Christians by taking them away from their next most important natural affiliation – family – misapplying the Bible verse which says that one’s enemies are the members of one’s household.
In doing so, some sections of the organized church device strategies to discourage their members from attending family meetings including scheduling programs on special occasions when their members should be going for family get-together and meetings such as the 2022 Christmas celebration we will soon witness.
Limiting the spiritual capabilities of individual souls rather than promoting it, the organized Church with denominations spread around the nooks and crannies of the world, teach, un-teach, and re-teach their members in a manner that the member grasps nothing. Does one need to know everything in the Bible to be a righteous person? It is true that knowledge is important, but when the organized Churches have turned what should be communion sessions with God into platforms for exploiting and leveraging on the spiritual, financial, emotional and intellectual strengths of the congregants, it becomes a matter of public concern.
The search for a true God should not actually be so rigorous for us that conflicts begin to appear in our lives. Whenever there is any conflict between the convictions of our inner being about the virtue of life and the doctrine of the religion that we profess, then, we are sure to be on the wrong path. We should then re-examine what we are being taught, because God, not being an author of confusion, can never represent conflicts. The natural law of affinity between our soul and God must always work in our favour to attract the presence of God to us once we are well disposed to seek God in righteousness.
This is the way of the saints and the prophets of old. They all had direct communion with God. To make our search conflict-free, we must understand that it is humanly impossible to configure God in our consciousness without substantial reference to an objective reality. This is the reason why there are idol worshippers because people seek empirical, objective realities to worship God. But are idols, made by man and without any virtues, the best we can get as human beings? Definitely not.
With this understanding, it is true that not only is a person who worships God through objective realities imbued with no virtues is caught up in the conflict of the search for a true God, anyone else, who has either a vague (or not at all) understanding of his object of worship is also caught up in the conflict of the search for a true God. For example, a Christian who does not understand and live out the teachings of Jesus Christ is caught up in the conflict of the search for a true God.
A person practicing Shintoism whose belief system is anchored in the beautiful scenery of nature is caught up in the conflict of the search for a true God. An animist who believes that God dwells in his culture is caught up in the conflict of the search for a true God. A pantheist who sees the presence of God in everything and lacks a direct link with the virtues within which God is ensconced, is caught up in the conflict of the search for a true God.
It is even worst for he/she who believes in the injunctions of God as issued by a prophet who did not live out the virtues expressed in those injunctions of God during the prophets sojourn on the earth. They are all caught up in the conflict of the search for a true God whose belief systems are anchored on virtue-less entities and deities or injunctions of prophets whose lives did not eulogize the virtues they preached.
I have once written in the Kaleidoscope Opinion Column that but for the empirical, real life evidence of the existence of a man from Nazareth called Yeshua ben-Yosef (Jesus the son of Joseph) later known as Jesus Christ – Christus, meaning Messiah), people like me would have been comfortable in the abstract conception of God as some people still erroneously do.
This is because it is really absurd to believe in a God that have no direct relationship with the empirical objective realities of life which the religions claim that he created.
The life and times of Jesus Christ as testified by John the Beloved and other Synoptic Gospel authors, together with the independent testimonies of people like Flavius Josephus (a pagan Romano-Jewish historian and military leader who was born in 37 A.D.), remain the empirical objective proof on earth upon which any analytical mind can anchor his belief in the existence of God – theism – as earlier defined in one of the opening paragraphs of this discourse. Secondly, it is reasonably an unsound intellectual argument to link up a phony, superstitious phenomenon called God to another complex phenomenon called life, without a collaborative evidence to prove his existence. This is actually what the life of Jesus Christ represents, to fill the gap created by this vacuum.
The life and times of Jesus Christ on earth, as far as intellectual wisdom is concerned, is the only available and presently existing proof on earth for the existence of God in the universe. Like the universe, God is a complex being but the exploration of the nature of God is beyond the mandate of this discourse. In Jesus Christ, God entangled himself, empirified as a human being Jesus Christ. I have done this in a book titled, “The Flaming Sword”, written with the pseudonym, Rabbi Abram A. ben-Uriel. Beyond Jesus Christ, all other claims or insinuations as to proof for the existence of God are subjective.
Finally, the life and times of Jesus Christ on earth suggests that man can completely express the nature of God to the extent of man’s evolutionary stage of existence on earth. Jesus Christ proved that being equally endowed spiritually, everyman is God in the making, with or without a spiritual leader or Pastor. Jesus Christ should be the role model for all Christians.
For this reason, human beings must understand and appreciate Jesus Christ who, in his lifetime, became the only human being that lived on earth to exhibit all the virtues and characteristics that all religious belief systems on earth unanimously agree to be the virtues and characteristics of God. Till we, one and all, become able to live on the earth in the perfect form that he lived, Jesus Christ still remains the Master of all masters, ancient and modern.
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