What I Look For In A God
It would be easy enough to find agreement on a few basic qualities of God, regardless of the differences that define us. That is, we can all agree that God is all knowing and all powerful no matter what religion we believe in. I’m pretty sure that we can even agree that God is all good. That is, even if the God one chooses to believe in is capable of what others might call evil, to those that believe in such a God the deeds they perform would all be considered by them to be good. O.K., that’s about as far as our agreement will stretch. Beyond this point I’m afraid that history has shown us that human beings would be willing to start wars and kill each other.
I believe that in most cases, people of this day and age would say that they were raised within the traditions of a religion. That is, unlike alcohol, you don’t have to wait until you are of legal age to buy into a particular faith. This fact points to what I consider to be a little bit of a problem. Specifically, when were we ever given the opportunity to evaluate the situation objectively? By the time we were old enough to learn language we were also being instructed as to what is expected of us in our family’s chosen belief system. At least, that’s the way I imagine it was for most of you. I, on the other hand, was apparently born to follow the beat of my own heart.
It all started when I was a little boy … One day we were given a permission slip to take home from the elementary school that I attended. Although I wasn’t clear on what was being offered, my mother was given the opportunity to have me pulled out of class early one day per week so that I could be bused down the road to a local catholic church for religious instruction. Actually, there were buses leaving to places of worship for all of the major religions of our community. Presumably, any review of my school records would clearly indicate that my family’s religious preference was decidedly catholic. Naturally, since my mother was a devout catholic, she signed the permission slip and I was then enrolled in the program. Every Thursday for the entire school session I would be bused to a local church for religious instruction, or so the program had intended.
At first I thought it was exciting to be able to learn more about all of the beliefs my mother kept teaching me. Then it happened. The nun that led the class started to get on my bad side. It was tolerable, at first, but quickly became unbearable. I clearly remember how she started talking bad about some of my favorite monster movies. What did Gorgo or Godzilla ever do to God? According to the church, we were not allowed to go see these movies and if we did we would be committing a sin or something. Naturally, I asked if this applied to all of the times I had already seen the movies. Then things really started to get bad.
One day we were studying a prayer that states, “I believe in God, father almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only son, our lord…”. Well, I decided I would only say the first part of the prayer. Apparently, she was unaware of the relationship I had with God because she told me I would go to hell if I didn’t say the entire prayer. Yes, I know I was just a child and I should respect my elders but the woman was flat out wrong. For me it was a matter of principle. I tried to explain myself to her but she was very upset. In fact, the woman morphed into a gargoyle in front of my very eyes and I could see the veins in her neck popping out while she turned a dark red. She actually made me feel like she would devour me if I didn’t do as she said.
Naturally, it became necessary for the nun to appeal to a higher authority so she took me to see the priest. Father Hudson seemed to be a very nice man in his early 40′s, I imagine. He began by asking me if I was from the neighborhood, if I liked my school and if my parents were catholic and attended church regularly. After answering his questions he used the information I provided to him against me. Since he knew my mother was both catholic and a church goer, he asked me if I realized what my refusal to say the prayer would do to my mother. He then proceeded to tell me that saying the entire prayer was not only necessary but the right thing to do as well. I then decided that he deserved to hear my reasoning and, to his credit, he was at least willing to listen.
I told Father Hudson the same thing I had intended to tell the nun. Specifically, I really do believe in God and there is nothing that could ever change that. I do not believe that God would punish me for not doing what people tell me to do when I know the reality of my convictions. As far as I was concerned, I was very adamant about not having to state that I believe in Jesus Christ. Since I would not change from my position, I was thrown out of the program and I was no longer allowed to return.
Father Hudson was right about one thing, I’ll give him that. My mother was very upset with me and angry that she had to take me five miles away from our house in the opposite direction to another church to enroll me. Unfortunately, for her plans, the word had already been sent out about me to all of the churches in the surrounding areas and I was not allowed to enroll. As an adult, I have often felt that this was a form of excommunication sanctioned by the church against a mere child. It worked for me.
In all fairness to the church, they could not have known the reality of my devotion and dedication to God. Prior to my run-in with the church I had already made my commitment to God. It happened one day when I was experiencing severe pain in my stomach. As I sat there on the commode, I thought about God and why people had to experience pain. It was then that I made my undying promise to God. Simply stated, I used my inner voice to communicate to God that if there had to be pain in the world, it would be my honor that it be given to me because I would never doubt his (A sexually speaking) existence and I would never lose my faith. Now that I am in my 60′s and able to look back upon my life, I must admit that it appears I did in fact receive more than my fair share of pain and suffering but, as I promised, my faith in God has never wavered.
In the course of my life I have had occasion to examine a variety of religious beliefs to try and determine if my lack of religious conviction was simply a matter of not having found the right belief system. I must admit that I was able to find many wonderful things in each and every religion I examined. Unfortunately, I never really found one that I could commit to, for one reason or another. My lack of commitment came primarily from the fact that I flat out refuse to make a judgment in the name of God. That is, judgments are for God to make, not me. Additionally, I will not accept anything that is presented to me from outside of myself as if it were coming from God. In other words, if God wants me to believe something it will come to me internally, not from outside of myself. God knows how to communicate with me. After all, we have an agreement.
Although it was not my idea to search for God, as I was never of the opinion that God was lost or missing, I could not help but realize that it was a very big issue with everyone else. Like everyone else, I have lived my entire life having people of different religions knock on my door for the purpose of discussing my eternal soul. As far as I’m concerned, it was this constant questioning and examining of my beliefs throughout the years that led me to reflect on my own understanding of God and what I generally think when approached by others on this topic. This was when I decided to engage in a little reverse engineering to see what it is that I believe about God and how I have always rejected the views of others for myself. While it may sound strange to say, I began to compile a profile of what I look for in a God.
To my surprise, there were many features offered in various other religions that immediately came to mind. One religion, for example, is said to offer 72 virgins to make my life in the ever after pleasurable. Another offers liberation from human shortcomings, while yet another offers eternal life among loved ones. In spite of having given these religious incentives their due consideration, I came to realize that I don’t want anything in addition to whatever God has in store for me and I don’t feel the need to know what that might be.
There are some reservations on my part regarding the package deals offered by institutional religions. I am, for example, particularly displeased with any religion that says to its followers that if you believe in their God you are saved from your life of sin. While I may not specifically look for anything from a God that he does not already provide, I believe it would be fair to say that the God I believe in offers absolutely nothing. That is, if you want good, you have to be good, no ifs, and’s, or but’s about it. If you believe that God is love, then you must live love rather than merely telling me about it or suggesting it as a signing bonus for believing in a particular religion.
I have noticed, in other words, that people are entirely too comfortable with the idea that their God will give them everything they need. Under these sets of circumstances it’s as if we can keep on killing each other and lying, cheating, stealing, or any such other human shortcoming because we bought into a religion of convenience. I, for one, have no intention of asking anything of God nor expecting anything. What I look for in a God is nothing. I believe in God absolutely and without reservation because it is what I feel in my heart. I have neither reasons nor expectations for what I feel other than my unconditional love for God.