Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Chris Hedges and What is God?

The Book TV appearance of Chris Hedges talking his new book "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" can be seen at ICH. The subject of his book keeps me up at night. Not because of having read his book, which I have not finished, but because I could already feel how the world has been tortuously twisted and turned upside down from a few years ago. The process began longer ago than 2004, but it was then that the basic goodness was expunged and in its place was something dark and deadly.

On a slightly different topic, my biggest gripe with Christians is that there is indeed a power in this universe that is beyond our ability to comprehend, let alone name, but it is not beyond our ability to experience. And I am not going to let anyone narrow it down into a tiny little book of dubious pedigree full of the most inane contradictions and have it be my guide to ethical living.

I have yet to find a Christian who can answer me my question regarding the first commandment of "thou shalt have no other gods before me" in a way that makes practical as well as practicable (capable of being done with means at hand and circumstances as they are) sense.

I don't put much stock in "believing." I put stock in the way people behave and live their lives. For example, I find it very disingenous to have the commandment "thou shalt not kill" only to have Moses murder everyone in the camp after they'd gone to sleep who did not immediately shun the golden calf and cower at his feet. I don't have the Bible handy to look up the order of events so I don't remember if the murder took place before he went up for the second set of tablets or after.

And for a really scary personal experience, I once had a conversation with someone regarding religion. We differed in our traditions. At the end of the conversation I said that in the end it doesn't matter what path we follow, that what matters is how we treat each other. To which he responded, "Oh, but the path DOES matter and only those on the right path will be saved."

This was in direct contradistinction to something I got many, many years before from watching a documentary on the Holocaust wherein the woman said that it should never matter what religion or race or anything else you are except that you are a human being and should be treated like one.

So, if one is to have "no other gods before me" then those who follow that commandment had better get a really good grip on what God is. From what I've seen and read, most Christian's understanding of God is woefully limited and is a blasphamy on the omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence of God. That God is made into the image of man is the height of human ignorance and hubris. God is not of the flesh, but of the spirit and that spirit exists in all that is living. God is the spark of life that enables the assembling of the material in this universe so that it can manifest itself. Only in that way is man made in God's image. But it is not an "image" at all in the sense of "looking like", but rather the forces and processes that are constantly at work that make the universe a living one.

The conclusion I came to in answering my question of "what is God such that no other gods should be put before it" was/is that God is Life itself--it is that spark passing between the "image" of God and Adam in Michelangelo's painting in the Sistine Chapel. This gives me something practical to live by. I shall value life, all of life, and nothing, NOTHING, will have more value than it. Not money, not power, not position, not any possession, nor any teaching shall ever make me take a life except for self-defense or self-preservation.

It took me six months to come to this conclusion. So, even as a Buddhist, I am comfortable with this view of God.