Assortments of Thought

What God Would Never Ask

Posted on: March 19th, 2010

A belief closely linked to belief in God is that He requires your obedience and conformance to His wishes, lest you be eternally condemned. Of course, these wishes are commonly believed to be in books such as the Bible and the Qur’an, and they’re amply supplemented with teachings either laid down very early on, or else articulated over the centuries by religious authority. Yet if the universe was created by God, then all its many wonders are obviously of His creation, and this includes the awesome potential of the human mind, and what human beings could conceivably accomplish, intellectually or otherwise. Simply put then, if God exists and is really God, the only embodiment of pure goodness and wisdom, He would never ask for so much of the potential He gave us to be wasted, as by asking us to limit our beliefs and actions to accord with specific wishes of His. Rather, He would desire to see us develop our potential to its fullest, in the process developing a myriad of views beyond accepted religious dogma, for only then could He see His Creation truly enacted.

There are undoubtedly many objections to this notion, of course. Perhaps the biggest is that it seems to miss the whole point, that God gave you free will to choose or reject faith as a test for salvation. Thus He gave you so much potential precisely to see how you’d choose to use it, whether you’d choose to faithfully obey Him or not. After all, you need to prove that you’re worthy of something beyond eternal condemnation to get it. Yet are we to believe that God would really act like this? When a political ruler lords over their people and demands obedience and worship under threat of punishment, for instance, we call them a dictator or tyrant. And though we recognize that children need guidance and direction as they grow up, when we see children being controlled or manipulated just to satisfy their parents’ ends, we disapprove. Such are cases of authority not respecting liberty of the individual. But God, as the perfect being, the being of pure goodness and wisdom, wouldn’t act in such a way. Thus He would never have created us just to demand our obedience under threat of eternal punishment, and nor, for instance, would He punish anyone for thinking outside of certain religious traditions.

It may seem objectionable here, of course, to say what God would or wouldn’t do by comparing Him to humans, because we’re obviously not a standard for God. Indeed, we’re all far too imperfect and limited for that, with respect to everything that God must inconceivably be. However, precisely because we’re all so imperfect, our ability to understand a being such as God is constrained by our imperfections, indeed to whatever our very limited views allow. Which is to say, unless we accept that we can’t know anything about God, our only recourse is to try to understand him through ourselves; in particular, as an authority figure through comparison to our own authorities. It’s not that we can truly understand God in this way, simply that from a practical, functional point of view, it’s the only way we can even try. And when we do, then naturally, since He’s good by definition, we don’t ascribe vices to Him, as by portraying him like a political tyrant or manipulative parent. Instead, we ascribe our highest possible virtues to him, including respect and tolerance of free thought.

Granted, this means our individual ideas of what God would do vary according to our political philosophies. Someone living in a society where no one questions their leaders or scarcely imagines doing so, for instance, would picture God just as He traditionally is. Indeed, our conceptions of Him began hundreds of years ago, in societies where rulers and masters were seen as being above everyone else in every way. Presumably then, that’s precisely why He’s traditionally pictured as He is, a master expecting obedience who punishes those who withhold it. But by now, we’ve reached the unprecedented point in our histories where many in the world have felt the benefits of freedom and liberty, of power residing with the people. Indeed, ideological differences and particular criticisms aside, few who live in free societies would willingly leave them and relinquish their liberties, except perhaps to go dictate atop an unfree one. Recognizing this then, it’s natural to picture God as a superior, most certainly, perhaps even one with expectations of how we should treat our fellows, but certainly not one oppressing those below Him either. For if we must ascribe our philosophies to God in order to understand Him, we wouldn’t choose anything less than what we’ve found to be best.

Finally, if God doesn’t require our faith and obedience under threat of eternal condemnation, then we might wonder and ask just what it is He would want, if anything. We probably can’t answer this question using religious texts, of course, for if God tolerates free thought, clearly, He wouldn’t expect us to put unequivocal faith in books like the Bible and the Qur’an. Nonetheless, since we’re part of the Creation, perhaps we could determine what God would want of us by considering what He would want from His Creation as a whole. Indeed then, at least one thing any creator wants, particularly of something that’ll continually change and develop, is to see it reach whatever potential they know it has. More generally, they want to see it work, of course, but most importantly, they want to see it actualize it’s potential. Such then perhaps it would be with God, the universe, and any intelligent beings that ever have been, currently are, or will ever be out there, including us.

Thus He would want us, like any other intelligent species, to reach our full potential in all possible ways. Not the least of which would be thinking freely, learning all we can, and simply pondering the mysteries of the world around us, including those inherent in our own societies and psychologies. For there’s so much we’ve already accomplished, both in ancient times and modern, and undoubtedly so much more to go, more than we can imagine. Hence He would never want our religious views to degenerate to dogma, hindering and restricting our studies of philosophy and science and such. And indeed, what could possibly be more religious for us, in the Western sense, than freely and openly studying the world around us, the Creation itself? For God would’ve given us a world so rich in wonder precisely so we could study and learn about it, including ourselves, while He, in turn, could watch us develop toward our full potential. To put it most simply then, you are a conscious being in a world of wonders, with so much potential before you and around you. Use it and develop it, without fear, never wasting it, for God would never ask you to do otherwise.

©2010, D.S. Applemin. All rights reserved.

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