Does God Exist?
“I don't believe in God. I believe in something, just not in God”. When questioned about their belief in God, a lot people seem to have a very narrow view of what God is supposed to be, inextricably linked to organised religion. When they cannot reconcile that narrow view with their own belief system they state that they do not believe in God and therefore have no relationship with the divine. That relationship may still be desired, as it could bring security, unconditional love, support at times of need and a sense of belonging, but it would constitute a lie to oneself and can therefore not be maintained. Many who claim they are non-believers however, are still left with the feeling that there is something bigger than ourselves, something they would like to connect to at some level, just not within the traditional context of organised religion.
As I see it, there are many ways to approach the concept of God and organised religion is just one of them. Organised religion generally poses the personal God, usually male, an omnipotent (all powerful) being who rules the world and who, by allowing human beings the freedom of choice, also allows the existence of His Antagonist, the Devil. This God wants His subjects to come to Him of their own free will, but when they don't, they will spend eternity in the flames of Hell. There is only one life and it must be lived by God's rules. Within Christianity, there are ways of purging sins, through confession and true repentance, in which case an officially assigned representative of God can grant you forgiveness and cleanse your soul.
If you can not get access to such a representative of God before you die, tough luck, you die and go to Hell whether you are repentant or not. Up until very recently, the Catholic church did not allow stillborn babies into heaven, they had to stay in 'Limbo' for eternity because they were not baptised before death. ('Limbo' is a place just outside Heaven, away from Hell but also away from the presence of God.) I personally believe that this is a very limited view of God. This God is not omnipotent; there seem to be enormous shortcomings to his power if he is incapable to grant forgiveness to a repenting soul, without an intervening human representative (e. priest) acting on his behalf. This God is not omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time) either: he is absent in Limbo, absent in Hell for eternity and absent until access has been granted through baptism, again performed by an officially assigned human representative. Choice is relative, here: 'you do as I say, or you will burn in Hell for eternity'. After death, this God refuses shelter to anyone who has not abided by his rules; the concept of forgiveness is pretty short lived.
Access to heaven is, up to a certain point, simply luck of the draw. It is not granted on the basis of your contribution to the world as a caring, loving, non-judgemental human being, who is never afraid of helping out other people, and making right and just decisions, rather than ones driven by personal gain. This may play a part, but not the most important one. Access to heaven is gained mainly by baptism, worship on Sunday, by praying and reading your bible, by telling God you think he's great, you love him and can't live without him. So if you happen to be born in a place that has never heard of this God; if you die alone; if you cannot get access to one of those representatives before you die, who can grant forgiveness for your sins and cleanse your soul; if you die angry with God because you have been hurt and abused, you are not allowed to be with God. You go to Hell. Life in this context is not a process of growing: it is a cruel and unfair test, with most people in this world seriously disadvantaged, or even incapable of passing, through circumstances beyond their control. Organised religions are frameworks, encompassing theological theories about the nature of the divine, usually represented as absolute truths, and rules about approaching and incorporating the divine into one's life, usually predicting dire consequences if these rules are not adhered to. The most important thing to understand about organised religions is that they have to keep their institutions alive and as such it is within their best interest to stipulate worship through their facilities, using their people. The need to be needed in order to survive must prevail, because otherwise, they will cease to exist.
That is why giving money to religious institutions, in collects or as gifts, is considered a divine duty, why one can only receive true salvation through the institutions and why members are ordered to keep coming back, every morning in the past, and now, as most congregations are waning, at least once a week. Institutions, at their best, do wonderful things. Through them, wonderful people help other people in wonderful ways. But they remain organisations whose belief structures and divine rules are coloured by a need to survive. I believe that the problem many people seem to have with the concept of God could be due to a failure of organised religions to move with the times, theologically. Many individual representatives of the churches do not subscribe to the idea of hell as they used to, nor to the idea of God as a vengeful, punishing force. Many even acknowledge the possibility of a relationship with God outside the confounds of church and traditional worship, but in essence, the churches still put forward an imposing patriarchal society in all aspects of religious life: a personal male God, benevolent father, head of the household, prescribing a framework of morals and lifestyle rules and restrictions as well as regular worship within religious institutions. The feminine is still entirely absent from the divine. Mary has never been granted divinity; she may be the 'mother of God' but she is still considered human. The archangels are male; Jesus is male.
Nobody in this divine family has ever had sex because sex, although quite necessary for the survival of the human race (we can not all achieve 'immaculate conceptions'), is still dirty and, at the heart of it, sinful. At the heart of most religious life is still worship, rather than love for one another in day to day life. Why would God care so much about being worshipped and thanked all the time? Does he have such a big ego? Monotheism is the existence of a single omnipresent, omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent deity, or God. It is claimed that Christianity is monotheistic, but there are some problems with this claim. In practice we do not see an omnipotent and omnipresent God, as discussed earlier in this article. His omniscience is questionable also. Firstly, his perspective is limited by his sex: he is male and therefore lacks female perspective. (Although in the Old Testament this view of God as solely male is contradicted, e.
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