Know about God.
Would it surprise you to know there has never been a group of people (tribe, nation-state, civilization) found on planet Earth that has not worshiped a god or gods?
And why does man, sooner or later, ask… “Does God exist?” Or, “Is there really a God?”
The answer is simple. We were created by God. And, God created us in such a way as to need Him. But, we have to seek Him out. The problem is in the seeking.
Over the millenniums, different people groups have found different answers to fill that ‘God shaped hole’ within their hearts/souls. Many have found their gods in nature and the elements: sun, moon, stars, earth, fire, wind, rain, and water for example. Others have found gods for activities and events such as seasons, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, harvests, sickness, fertility, etc. And religion has grown up around all of it. So where does that leave us?
Good question. My answer is, first, …we all believe in and worship something or someone.
Atheists will say they disagree; that they, “worship no god”. But they do. Most worship science and to some degree they all worship themselves. Yet science doesn’t have all the answers – and many of the answers science does supply are only “partially right” or “temporarily right”; lasting only until proven wrong by a better theory or law. Truly, in this day and age, it takes a lot of faith to be an atheist.
Please don’t get me wrong. I love science (and science fiction). I follow technological advances via printed media, broadcast media and the Internet. Science is not the enemy of Christianity, regardless of what Richard Dawkins and others, have to say. Science, true science, will never disprove Christianity. (It may give some religions a very bad time, but man’s relationship with God will NEVER be destroyed by science. It simply will not happen.
Early scientists, for the most part, were educated in/by their churches – think, Buddhist, Hindi, Islam, Christian (Catholic). In the West many early scientists were monks. Of course, the word ‘science’ and ‘scientist’ didn’t exist at the time. They were educated and observant people, with inquiring minds. What drove these early pioneers in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, physics and other disciplines? Interestingly enough, they most often attributed their work to, ‘…a search to discover the natural laws God set in motion to govern His Creation’.
Obviously, they had no trouble giving credit where credit was due. And, of course not everyone was particularly happy about the advances in science. Galileo and his run-ins with the Church in Rome being a particularly well known example. Yet, the pioneers in science persevered. And modern science (and scientific method) is the result.
So what have we learned about God?
That is asking a lot! Let me approach the answer this way. Different religions will have different answers to that question.
For instance, it may surprise some of you to learn that Buddha is not a god. The Great Buddha never referred to himself as god. He sought only a path to enlightenment. Buddhists do not believe in God (although offerings are made to him). Buddhists don’t believe in sin, heaven, or hell. The goal is to become enlightened and reach nirvana – which is a mental state of “non-existence” with no attachments to earthly belongings or desires.
Hinduism teaches that god is everything – including man and nature. There are up to 330 million gods – all coming from the same god, Brahman. Since all gods are good, you can pick your own and make offerings to it. Humans are trapped in a series of rebirths and reincarnations depending on how they live their lives. Karma is the accumulation of a person’s good and bad deeds. It will determine how you are reincarnated. Bad karma can lead to being reincarnated as an animal. By living multiple good lives (moksha), one can be freed from the cycle of rebirth and reincarnation.
The supreme being of Islam is Allah. Allah is not a personal god and can’t be truly known by men. Allah asks his followers to fight against all who do not worship him as God (infidels). Infidels are to be converted to Islam even if force is required. You earn your salvation by following the Five Pillars of Faith and living a good life. Good people go to paradise, bad people go to hell. That decision is made by Allah. Your salvation can be guaranteed only by dying in battle while fighting in a holy war (jihad) for Allah.
In the Mormon faith each man has the potential to be a god on his own planet if he meets the requirements of Mormonism while on Earth. Women will live on the planet on which their husband is god. Jesus, God (Judeo-Christian) and the Holy Spirit are three different gods. Mormons believe that God came to earth as a physical man. Through his good conduct he became the God of earth. (I have no clue who made/declared him God of earth. -AG) Jesus is the natural born son of God and Mary. Satan is Jesus brother, conceived by God (I therefore, assume. -AG)
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe 144,000 people will go to heaven based on what they do; and, only church members can be saved. They believe God is a single deity who doesn’t know all things and isn’t everywhere. Jesus is the human form of the archangel Michael – who was created by God; thus making Jesus inferior to God. The Holy Spirit is God’s impersonal active force on earth. They further believe, that (after death) if you are of the church, but not part of the “anointed class” (the 144,000), you will stay on the earth which will always exist. All other people will die into nothingness (no afterlife for them).
The God of Judaism is revealed in the Old Testament of the Bible. There is no Trinity (God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). God is both loving and the judge of the earth. Jews believe they are a people chosen by God. To live as a Jew is to pray, to do good deeds, and to be humble before God. The Jewish concept of the afterlife is kind of a mixed bag. Some believe there is no afterlife. Some believe all Jews go to heaven. Some believe the wicked go to hell. Non-Jews can be granted afterlife if they are righteous. The greater focus for Jews is on the Age to Come, when Jews will live on earth in resurrected bodies.
Christians believe there is one supernatural God in three Persons – God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three Persons have existed for all eternity. Christians believe that God is revealed in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. God is both loving and the judge of all the earth. God is distinct from His creation; but is intimately involved with it – as it’s Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer. God created mankind to do His work on earth, and to have a personal relationship with Him. God gave man free-will; and, through original sin (willful disobedience to God), man and the earth have fallen from the “very good” state in which they were created. Because God is perfection and without sin, mankind cannot enter into His presence without being redeemed. By ourselves, and through our own works, we cannot erase our sins or earn redemption. Because God loves His creation, He has made redemption available to all people through the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Those who died (or die) without knowledge of Jesus will be judged as either righteous or unrighteous based on how they lived their lives, based on what they did know.
OK. That was a very quick overview of a subject that fills entire libraries. But, I think it will allow us to make some quick comparisons. What I think are the key points are these:
- Most religions fail to address where their gods came from, where the earth came from, where plants and animals came from, how societies/cultures and moral codes developed, etc. (If they do, the parts about where the earth, plants and animals came from don’t match up very well to what we know from the scientific record.) And some religions are quite vague about the afterlife.
- Most gods are impersonal and unapproachable. They don’t want an intimate relationship with their followers.
- Many gods have limited scope and powers.
- Most religions rely on “works” to determine your destination after death (if there is an afterlife). Since “works” are not (to my knowledge) given individual values, it is virtually impossible to be assured of your status with your god. For instance, how many average goodies are wiped out by a big baddie?
In part 1 of this post, I said that I believe we seek God because God made us with an “empty spot” within us that can only be filled by Him. I don’t know if you subscribe to that, but I have never heard a better reason. And, you might want to ask yourself, “If it’s not true, why would I ask about God? In fact, how could I even frame the question?“
One final thought. When I said that we can make a god out of pretty much anything? And that it’s purely a matter of what we choose to worship? That is true. Also true is the fact that “…man is destined to die once…”[Heb 9:27. NLT] (OK, that is from the New Testament, but even if you don’t “buy into” the New Testament, are you really going to try to convince me that statement isn’t true?) We are ‘terminal’ the day we are born. So, do you really think that’s all there is to it? We live. We die. The end.
Or, is there more to our story? I believe there is, …a lot more.
And, for that, you’ll have to read part 3, coming soon.