God and the Bible are very touchy subjects for many people, such that when someone challenges traditional concepts they have their heart and soul invested in, it oftentimes generates anger and animosity.
It isn't my intention to trample on the belief systems of others. My goal is solely to be a catalyst for rational thought that can lead all of us to a unified truth as to who or what God really is.
I am, by no means, an expert on God, religion, or the Old and New Testament. I have studied comparative religions as well as spiritual and mystical texts, but I am not a scholar.
I am, however, an expert on cognitive dissonance, which is a state of mind that is created by two conflicting ideas that co-exist. That is how I feel about the Gods of the Old and New Testament.
For a very long time, I was confounded by their opposing philosophies. And then I stumbled upon a thought that allowed me to make sense of it all. I share that with you now:
"In God We Trust." The question is: Which God do we trust? Do we trust the God of the Old Testament, who is filled with anger, hate and judgment? The God who has all sorts of rules, many of which make no sense to us today? The God who believes in vengeance, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth?
Or do we trust the God of the New Testament, who believes in acceptance, forgiveness, and love? The God who speaks of turning the other cheek? The God who, basically, has only one rule: love ye one another?
It never made sense to me that God would be angry, vengeful, or jealous. Those are traits of imperfect beings, those who are scared and threatened. It never made sense to me that a loving father would condemn his children to an eternal hell of suffering and pain.
When my child did things that I perceived were unloving, cruel, and wrong, it never occurred to me that she should be punished forever for making a mistake. It never occurred to me to label what she did as sin.
It occurred to me that she was learning and growing, and that what she needed was compassion, guidance, forgiveness and tolerance, not eternal judgment, wrath, guilt, shame, punishment and pain.
What kind of loving father would want that for his child? No loving father would. It's not possible. There must be another explanation as to why the God of the Old Testament was so angry and vindictive. I began to wonder if, perhaps, rather than God making us in his image, we made God in ours.
And then I read the New testament. Now, here was a Supreme Being, an omnipotent spiritual force to enlighten and elevate mankind that made sense to me.
So how do we reconcile the Old Testament with a God who banishes some of his children to eternal hell and the New Testament with a God who understands that his children know not what they do, forgives them, and finds a place for all of them beside him in Heaven?
Is there a way to make sense out of the Old and New Testament and come away with a concept of God that we can trust, put our faith in, and teach our children to honor and emulate?
What if the Old and the New Testament are more reflective of a message God wanted us to hear for our survival as opposed to a definition of who he is? What if, at the time of the Old Testament, for the survival of the race, people needed to do certain things?
For example, what if, in order to survive, we had to take the attitude of an eye for an eye because if we didn't, we would be slaughtered. What if we had to be vengeful? What if we had to not forgive and forget because if we did that would lead to our demise?
What if, for our survival, we had to believe in the scarcity principle that if others had more we would have less, so we best take what we can and kill those who stand in our way?
Equally so, what if, in order to survive, we needed to not eat specific foods and not engage in specific behaviors? This might explain the many rules of the Old Testament that are presently hard to fathom.
Indeed, the argument could be extended to the rule that two men not share the same bed, in the sense that, relevant to those times, procreation and, therefore, survival of the race, depended upon men sharing their bed exclusively with women.
The argument could be made that God had to frame homosexuality in such harsh terms as sin and abomination, in order to frighten people sufficiently such that they would listen, obey, and populate the planet, thereby ensuring survival.
Essentially, what if the God of the Old Testament, in his wisdom, chose to present himself as a role model of jealousy, vengeance, wrath and restrictions, with threats of hell and eternal damnation, so that we would, as a race, survive turbulent times?
Okay, then. Now time passes. The race has survived an era of extreme disease and pestilence as well as viciousness and violence.
Now, in order to survive, we needed to adopt a different philosophy, a different strategy of living, a strategy of co-existence, a strategy that didn't involve kill or be killed, but rather one that involved turning the other cheek and cooperating with our enemies so that we didn't end up destroying each other.
Perhaps survival now required we turn our swords into plowshares. Perhaps now the message God wanted us to hear was that the meek shall inherit the earth. Not the weak. The non-violent shall inherit the earth.
So God sent Christ down to earth to set us straight, to spread the Word, which was basically: "Forget about all that eye for an eye stuff. That's old news. That won't work anymore. Here's the good news. From here on in, its gonna be, 'love ye one another.' From here on in, it's gonna be, 'love thy enemies as thy friends.'
"From here on in, if we are to survive as a race, we must give up our judgments and resentments against our brothers and sisters. We must accept each other and forgive each other. We must love each other.We must share what we've got. We must give to the poor. We must help the weak and the infirm.We must cast no one to the wolves.
"If we don't make these changes, if we, instead, maintain the old philosophies of selfishness, judgment, jealousy, vengeance, violence and war, we will end up destroying everything we have fought for in the past."
Next week: The Neo Testament