SOME OF WHAT WE’VE BEEN
TOLD ABOUT WHAT GOD WANTS
Here is a quick survey of some of the things many people have been told by their ancestors, by their parents, by their teachers and by other authority figures in their lives, about What God Wants. It may be tough for some of you to get through this survey. Please do it anyway.
These passed-on messages have created the here-and-now views, ideas and experiences of millions of people who at least loosely adhere to, or live in cultures which have been deeply affected by, the doctrines of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the big three of the world’s organized religions. Some of these teachings also became a part of other religions. The result of this is that a huge portion of the world’s people have been exposed to these ideas and deeply affected by them.
Let’s take the most obvious topics first.
GOD…Many humans have been told that What God Wants is for humans to understand that God is the Supreme Being, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Giver of Life, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Wise Beyond Human Understanding.
God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the Unmoved Mover, separate from humanity, but the creator of it in His own image. Separate from life, but the Creator of it, as His gift to humanity.
Most humans have been told that God is a single God, a unified God, the Only God there is. The word Allah means, literally, the God. Some humans have been told that this One God is divided into Three Parts, one of which became human. Some humans have been told that there is more than one God. And some humans have been told that there is no God at all. The majority of humans in the Twenty-First Century believe in a God of some sort.
Most of those who do believe in God have been told that What God Wants is Love and Justice.
To fulfill the first mandate, God has granted each human being ample and repeated opportunity to be reconciled with Him.
To fulfill the second mandate, God, at the end of each human life, sits in Judgment of every human soul, deciding at this Reckoning whether the soul has earned everlasting reward in Heaven or everlasting damnation in Hell.
Most humans have been told that God is a jealous God, God is a vengeful God, God is an angry God who can be filled with wrath and who uses violence directly on human beings—and who invites and even commands human beings to do so on each other.
They’ve also been told that God is a caring God, a compassionate God, a merciful God, a loving God who wants nothing but the best for human beings. All that humans have to do is obey Him.
It’s easy for humans to know how to obey God because God has told humans exactly what to do and what not to do. It’s all there in Sacred Scripture. It can be found also in the words and in the teaching of God’s personal representative on earth.
These are the beliefs of much of humanity.
One result of this teaching: Many human beings are afraid of God. They also love God. So, many humans confuse fear and love, seeing them as connected in some way. Where God is concerned, we love to be afraid (we have made it a virtue to be “God fearing”), and we are afraid not to love (we are commanded to “Love the Lord thy God with all thy mind, all thy heart, and all thy soul”).
Humans fear what God will do to them if they do not obey Him. They have been told He will punish them with everlasting torment. Many human beings therefore rely heavily on their understanding of God’s word and God’s desires and what meets God’s approval when regulating their lives, interpreting situations or events, and making decisions.
When U. S. President George W. Bush was asked if he ever sought the advice of his father, the first President Bush, he replied that he sought counsel from “a higher Father.” When the then new spiritual leader of Hamas, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, delivered a speech at Gaza’s Islamic University in March, 2004, he told those assembled that “God declared war” against America, Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Rantisi added, “The war of God continues against them and I can see the victory coming up from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas.” Two weeks later Rantisi was dead, killed by an Israeli rocket attack on his car.
Earlier it was said, “Humanity’s ideas about God produce humanity’s ideas about life and about people.”
This is painfully clear. This is painfully obvious.
This is Part III of an extended series of headline articles in The Global Conversation
GOD’S WORD AND GOD’S MESSENGER…Many humans have been told that What God Wants is for God’s Word to be recognized as being contained in the Holy Scriptures and Sacred Texts, and for God’s Messenger to be honored and listened to and followed.
There are many Holy Scriptures and Sacred Texts, including the Adi Granth, the Bhagavad-gita, the Book of Mormon, the Hadith, the I Ching, the Kojiki, the Lun-yü, the Mahabharata, the Mathnawi, the New Testament, the Pali Canon, the Qur’an, the Tao-te Ching, the Talmud, the Torah, the Upanishad, the Veda, and the Yoga-sutras, to name a few. Many humans have been told that only one of these texts is the right one. The rest are wrong. If you choose the teachings of the “wrong” one, you’ll go to hell.
There are many Messengers, including Noah, Abraham, Moses, Confucius, Siddartha Gautama (who has been called The Buddha), Jesus of Nazareth (who has been called The Savior), Muhammad (who has been called The Greatest Prophet), Patanjai (who has been called The Enlightened One), Baha’u’llah (who has been called the Blessed One), Jalal al-Din Rumi, (who has been called the Mystic), Paramahansa Yogananda (who has been called the Master), Joseph Smith (who has been called many things), and others. Many humans have been told that only one of these messengers is the right one. The rest are wrong. If you choose the message of the “wrong” one, you’ll go to hell.
One result of this teaching: Human beings have been trying to figure out which is the right text and who is the right messenger for thousands of years. The followers of certain messengers and the believers in certain texts have sought to convince the rest of the world that the messenger and text of their persuasion is the only one to which people should turn.
On many occasions throughout history these attempts at conversion have turned violent. There has scarcely been a day on this planet when a battle has not been fought or a human being not killed in the name of God, or for God’s Cause.
The Holy Scriptures of all major religions indicate that vanquishing, punishing and killing is something that God Himself has repeatedly done, and so vanquishing, punishing and killing in God’s name and in the name of God’s Messenger is acceptable and, in some circumstances, required.
This is, many of the world’s people believe, What God Wants.
HEAVEN AND HELL…Many humans have been told that What God Wants is for people to live good lives, and for good people to go to Heaven or Paradise after their deaths, while bad people go to Hell, Gehenna, or Hades. Those in Heaven will live in unending bliss in reunion with God and those in Hell will live with other evildoers who have been damned to eternal torture. Where each individual soul goes will be decided at the Reckoning on Judgment Day.
Some humans have been told that hell is a temporary experience during which sinners are tormented by demons until the debt created by the evil of their lives has been paid, while others have been informed that hell is but a phase in a soul’s journey as it passes through many experiences of reincarnation.
One result of this teaching: Millions of people have structured their entire lives around the struggle to avoid “going to hell” and around the hope of “getting to heaven.” They have done extraordinary and sometimes shocking things to produce this outcome.
The concept of heaven and hell has shaped not only their behavior, but their entire understanding of life itself. It has also shaped human history.
LIFE…Many humans have been told that What God Wants is for life to be a school, a place of learning, a time of testing, a brief and precious opportunity to migrate the soul back to heaven, back to God, whence it came.
Many humans have also been told that it’s when life ends that the real joy begins. All of life should be considered a prelude, a forerunner, a platform upon which is built the soul’s experience of eternity. Life should therefore be led with an eye toward the Afterlife, for what is earned now will be experienced forever.
Most humans also believe that What God Wants is for people to understand that life consists of what people can see, hear, taste, touch and smell—and nothing more.
One result of this teaching: Humans believe that life is not easy, nor is it supposed to be. It’s a constant struggle. In this struggle, anything other than what is perceived by the five senses is considered “supernatural” or “occult” and falls, therefore, into the category of “trafficking with the Devil” and “the work of Satan.”
Humans are struggling to get back to God, and into God’s good graces. They are struggling to get back home. This is what life is about. It’s about the struggle of the soul, living within the body, to get back home, to return to God, from Whom it has been separated.
Most people of religious persuasion focus heavily on Heaven and Hell. Those who believe that “getting to Heaven” is the ultimate Purpose of Life, and who truly and fervently believe that they can guarantee their entrance into Heaven by doing certain things while on earth, will, of course, seek to do those things.
They’ll make sure that their sins are confessed regularly, and that their absolutions are up to date, so that if they die suddenly their soul will be ready for Judgment Day. They’ll fast for hours, days, or weeks at a time, travel on pilgrimages to distant holy places, go to church or temple or mosque or synagogue every week without fail, tithe 10% of their income, eat or not eat certain foods, wear or not wear certain clothing, say or not say certain words, and engage in all manner of rites and rituals.
They’ll obey the rules of their religion, honor the customs of their faith tradition, and follow the instructions of their spiritual leaders in order to demonstrate to God that they are a worthy person, so that a place will be reserved for them in Paradise.
If they are distressed enough and oppressed enough and unhappy enough, some humans will even end their own lives and kill other people—including the totally innocent and the absolutely unsuspecting—for the promise of a reward in heaven.
(If that promised reward happens to be 72 black-eyed virgins with whom to spend all of eternity, and if the humans in question happen to be 18 to 30-year-old men with little future and a dust-laden, poverty stricken, injustice-filled present, the chances of their making such an extraordinarily destructive decision will increase tenfold.)
They’ll do this because they believe this is What God Wants.
But is it?
(Our exploration of this topic continues in Part IV of this extended series, coming very soon. Don’t miss a single entry. And if you wish to catch up on installments that you have missed, simply click on the word HEADLINE in the Categories list at right, then scroll down to find the column you wish to read.)