GOD: PLUS OR MINUS?
I am not going to debate the existence of God. To do that I would have to define God. And---if God exists---He, She, It---cannot be defined by humans. Our concepts would be totally inadequate.
What I am trying to figure out is whether the belief in God has been good or bad for this world and the beings who live here.
Somewhere I have read that wars over religious issues, e.g. my God is true, but yours is not (translate: my concept of -- belief about God is the correct one---and yours is sacrilegious) have killed more human beings than conflicts over politics, economics, etc.
A former student suggested to me in the past year: "Would the world be better without God?"
Let me see. I know I'll use the old pros and cons method:
Pro: World is Better Off with People Believing in God:
>>>People would be immoral and society would crumble unless mortals believed in a God that would punish them either in this world or the next.
(This one is difficult to answer. Buddhists, generally speaking, are considered as not believing in a personal God, i.e. one that judges and punishes. They usually believe in karma --one's actions will determine a favorable or unfavorable rebirth. Then there is the USA, IMO, we seem to be a materialistic, commercialized, consumption driven society. Yet, I have read a number of times that no country in the world has more citizens claiming to believe in God --something like 99%. Belief in God doesn't seem to have had a great deal of effect on us. We should be a lot better than we are. Before the missionaries arrived in Hawaii, the islanders were living happier, more peaceful, more harmonious lives. That all changed with "religion" -- or maybe it was it was a change in gods that did it.)
>>>God fills a deep need in the core of a person--enabling her/her to be more loving, kind, thoughtful, peaceful, wise, content, etc. etc.
(Well, there must be some gone awry then. There doesn't seem to be a very strong correlation between these qualities and a person who says that God exists and that for sure. Maybe the problem is that one must believe in the "right" God. In that case, this innermost need is fulfilled and the person both inside and out realizes it. However, I do believe, personally, that there is an emptiness within us---that needs to be filled; an inner need that wants to be met.)
Belief in God seems to work because in dire situations many people prayer to God for themselves or for others---and prayer seems to be helpful to them. Even doctors today are beginning to admit that people who pray benefit.
(Yes, I would agree. Some of this is psychological, i.e. believing there is a higher power that cares for you and could help you or your loved ones. OTOH, I do believe in the existence of the supernatural (for want of a better word) -- or the sacred.)
Part of the problem with God is the word GOD which carries so much baggage: emotionally, conceptually. Many of us have been carrying the baggage since our younger days. We have not taken a second look at God ---when we became more adult.
There is a story of a wealthy American retired businessman who was interested in Eastern Religion. He hired a respected Indian professor who was extremely knowledgeable about Hinduism. The professor was to be the American's guide showing him various temples, ashrams in India and explaining Hinduism as they went.
At one point the American said, "I understand that Hindus have many Gods. Do you have any idea of how many? The professor: "Yes --749, 273, 921 -- altogether." American: "That's amazing -- not only the huge number but the fact you could give it to me so quickly." Professor: "Not really, you see 749, 273, 921 is the latest report on the Hindu population of India. We believe that each person must have his/her own God."
If one believes in God, it may be in a being who created the universe, but has had nothing to do with it since then; in fact pays no attention to it or us. This view called Deism appears to have been the notion of God held by a number the more important founders of our nation.
Theism usually means, especially in Chrisitianity, that God is a Person who created the universe; is attentive to what does on, and sometimes can intervene.
Pantheism is God and the Universe are One.
Panentheism that God includes the Universe, but is more than the Universe.
The most important thing --- as I see things, is that if you believe in God or Allah or Brahman or Sacred Emptiness ----whatever term you use for the sacred core of things--- you must experience The Sacred. God cannot be described, but this being can be experienced. Knowledge of "God" comes through intuition, through feeling, through sensing this presence---which you know is Reality itself --- but which you cannot encase in a conceptual capsule.
"God must be a personal "God" for each one of us. God in a sense is a relationship
If we could only let everyone come to terms with God in her/his way, the world we be a better more peaceful, more loving place----and so would we, each one of us.