Bill Bennett

Bill Bennett

  • Instructional Technologist
    Associate Professor
  • Mt. San Jacinto College
  • Menifee, CA 92584

  • Education:
  • B.S. Vocational Ed., CSUSB
  • M.A. Career & Technology Education (CTE) - Coordination & Supervision, CSUSB
  • M.S. Instructional Design & Technology (IDT), CSUF

  • Professional Certifications:
  • MCSE, CCNA, CIW

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God Is Love


 

God Is Love

Bill Bennett

California State University, San Bernardino

 

 

 

June 6, 2008

EDUC 306 - Sat: Expository Writing

Jennifer Vallely


Preface

“I don't try to imagine a personal God; it suffices to stand in awe at the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it.”

Albert Einstein

Recently I saw a bumper sticker that said simply “God Is Love,” and it got me to thinking about how nice it would be if all the people of planet Earth would just embrace this one simple concept and forget the rest of the dogma which is put forth by the organized religions of the world. I have always believed, and still do, that we all would be able to live in harmony, if we could just follow one simple rule, the Golden Rule – "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

I can remember back to about age four when my parents used to have a couple from our neighborhood, the Fouches, pick up my brother Tom and me on Sunday mornings and cart us off to Sunday school. I didn’t understand why my parents felt compelled to ruin perfectly good Sunday mornings by forcing us to be institutionalized for four hours a week. The neighbor kids didn’t have to go, and even stranger was that my parents never went. I’d rather be playing with my toys or watching cartoons on TV, precious hours of my weekends were being wasted. There was something about the Sunday school environment that just didn’t feel right to me, even at a young age I felt that the stories they were telling me were a little bit farfetched. It wasn’t the same as my public school classes where we were learning more factual, practical lessons of life. In Sunday school the messages I was receiving seemed more obtuse, abstract, and more of fantasy than reality. But, I was told I’d better learn it, and like it, or I would burn in Hell.

Since then I have spent a lot of my time, on and off, trying to rectify what religion was preaching with what I was seeing and reading about the realities around me – things just didn’t jibe. Now that I am almost fifty years of age, I’ll be celebrating the big five-o in September, I am somewhat surprised by how many still believe so strongly in religion and the concepts each teaches. Why don’t others see what I see, and why do they feel so adamant that their way is the right way? For me, as a long time Agnostic searching for answers, the best answer for why we exist, I’ve recently discovered, lies within a relatively new science called Quantum Physics. Quantum Physics and Quantum Mechanics, the little I have learned about it, seem to offer the best answers, in my mind, as to why things work the way they work, and why things are the way they are. This review paper is my effort to document some of what I have learned about religion in my past 50 years on this planet Earth.

Abstract

Since the dawning of Homo sapiens, humankind has realized that people have relatively little ability to control their surroundings or their own destiny. Instead, humankind has always relegated that responsibility to one or more all knowing, all powerful, omnipotent beings. This relegation of power has taken on all shapes and forms with names like Anu, Utu, Re, Ahuramazda, Zeus, Wotan, Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, and God. Entire cults of people, schools of thought, and even industries have been built around these entities and what they represent. Many of the planet’s major conflicts have occurred over disagreements regarding the dogma surrounding these religions. This essay briefly covers the development of a few of the world’s major religions as well as the root of the conflicts that they have with each other, and their incongruence with the scientific world.

GOD IS LOVE

Introduction

Since the dawning of Homo sapiens, humankind has realized that people have relatively little ability to control their surroundings or their own destiny. Instead, humankind has always relegated that responsibility to one or more all knowing, all powerful, omnipotent beings. This relegation of power has taken on all shapes and forms with names like Anu, Utu, Re, Ahuramazda, Zeus, Wotan, Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, and God. Entire cults of people, schools of thought, and even industries have been built around these entities and what they represent. Many of the planet’s major conflicts have occurred over disagreements regarding the dogma surrounding these religions. This essay briefly covers the development of a few of the world’s major religions as well as the root of the conflicts that they have with each other, and their incongruence with the scientific world.

Origins of Religion

The Yoruba people of West Africa tell of a story about how at one time there was only water below the sky. Then the divine Owner of the Sky let down a chain by which his son Oduduwa descended along with sixteen male companions. Oduduwa scattered a handful of soil across the water and set down a chicken that scratched the soil into the shape of the land. A palm nut that he planted in the soil grew to become the bountiful forest that is home of the Yoruba people. Oduduwa was their first king.

At some point in their history most human societies began telling similar stories about their origins. Some related that the first humans came out of the sky, others that they emerged out of a hole in the ground. Historical accuracy was not the point of such creation myths. Like the story of Adam and Eve in the Hebrew Bible, their primary purpose was to define the moral principles that people thought should govern their dealings with the supernatural world, with each other, and with the rest of nature. In addition, they provided an explanation of how a people’s way of life, social divisions, and cultural system arose. With the exception of Confucianism, most religions are organized around one or more deities. In modern terminology there are four groupings of religions, Polytheistic, Monotheistic, Agnostic and Atheistic. Polytheistic religions consist of multiple deities, like those of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans during the Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron ages.  There are also a couple of modern day religions that fall into the category of being polytheistic, they include religions that originally developed in India: Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, also religions like Confucianism, Taoism, and Shinto which have their origins in China and Japan. Monotheistic religions have only one deity. The Islamic religion worships Allah. Christians, which include Protestants and Mormons, along with Judaism and Catholicism pay homage to God, although Christians and Catholics believe that Jesus was the son of their God and Jews do not. Agnostics follow no one particular organized religion and Atheists don’t believe in a supreme being of any kind (Bulliet, 2005).

Theories of How Religion Originated

Just during the period of recorded history there have been over 500 different religions practiced by one culture or another. This means that during the approximately two million years that humans have populated the planet there must have been thousands of religions practiced by humankind at one time or another. There are many theories on how these religions came to be. What follows is just a sampling of some of the more outstanding and enduring theories.

Animistic

One popular theory developed by English ethnologist Edward Burnett Tylor is called Animistic. In the 1850’s, Herbert Spencer theorized that the gods of “primitive” people were based on dreams about the recent dead. According to Spencer, when “primitive” people dreamed of the dead, they came to believe that the former chiefs and heroes were actually alive in another world or another form. Tylor was aware of Spencer’s theory, which was called Manism, but he did not totally accept it. Tylor maintained that “primitive” people developed a sense of other or soul from experiences with death and dreams. According to Tylor, “primitive” people also believed that these souls were not only to be found in people but in all of nature. There were souls in stones, trees, animals, rivers, springs, volcanoes, and mountains. The entire world, the very air itself, was seen as being alive with spirits of all kinds. These spirits could be helpful or harmful to humans, and had personalities that could be offended of flattered. Therefore, it became a part of the life of “primitive” societies to pray to these spirits, offer sacrifices to them, seek to appease them, and avoid offending them.

Nature-Worship

The Nature-Worship theory is another explanation for the origins of religion. This theory was developed by Oxford professor Max Mueller, who had interests in the mythology of India. The Nature-Worship Theory states that human beings developed their religions from their observations of the forces of nature. According to this theory, “primitive” people became aware of the regularity of the seasons, the tides, and the phases of the moon. Their response to their observations of these forces of nature was to personalize them. Thus they gave a name to the sun, the moon, and so on, and began to describe the activities of these forces with tales that eventually became mythology.

Original Monotheism

A completely different approach to the origin of religion was presented early in the twentieth century by Wilhelm Schmidt in “Der Ursprung der Gottesidee.” Schmidt began his career studying the linguistics of New Guinea and then all of Oceania. From his work, Schmidt came to disagree with the animistic theories of Tylor and others. He noted that all of the hunter-gatherer cultures he had studied (and which are the oldest form of human society to be observed) held a common belief in a distant High God. Although the predominant form of religion for these “primitives” was animism or polytheism, there was always the belief that originally there had been one great god above all others. This god may have been the creator of the world or the parent of many lesser deities. Usually, the High God is understood to have the qualities of eternity, omniscience, beneficence, morality, and omnipotence. Often, the High God is believed to have been the force that gave society its moral codes. After initially establishing the world, this High God went away and now has little contact with the world. Some of the mythologies go on to say that one day the High God will return and judge the world on the basis of its morality. Naturally, Schmidt was accused of allowing his Christian prejudices to influence the formulation of this theory.

The Magic Theory

Sir James George Frazer constructed his theories by reading reports of anthropologists, colonial officials, missionaries, and ancient writers. On the basis of his studies, Frazer developed what is known as the Magic theory. Frazer basically agrees with Tylor that the human mind had developed in a linear fashion in the same way as the physical process of evolution. He taught that humankind had gone through three phases of development regarding the spirit world. First, people had attempted to control the world of nature through magic. When humanity realized nature could not be coerced through magic, it turned to the second stage of development – religion – whose premise seems to be that nature can be implored to cooperate. When religion was also seen to fail, humankind, in the third phase, turned to science, in which a more rational understanding of nature is operative. Therefore, the modern farmer who needs rain turns to neither the magician nor the priest. He turns to the scientist, who will seed the clouds and cause it to rain (Hopfe, 2001).

The Conflicts of Religion

“The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are literally, patriarchal – God is the Omnipotent Father – hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates.”

Gore Vidal

If all religions originated as a means of establishing a moral code for their followers then why have so many wars, so much death and destruction occurred in their name? At Colorado State University they have documented in an online article that Mauryan ruler King Ashoka is recorded as saying in 240 B.C.E. “The growth of qualities is essential to religion in men of all faiths” because “if a man extols his own faith and disparages another because of devotion to his own and because he wants to glorify it, he seriously injures his own faith” (colostate, 2008), indicating that religious conflicts were occuring long before modern day religious entities came to be. The oldest of the three Abrahamic religions, and the clear ancestor of the other two, is Judaism. Originally a tribal cult of a single fiercely unpleasant God morbidly obsessed with sexual restrictions, with the smell of charred flesh, with his own superiority over rival gods, and with the exclusiveness of his chosen desert tribe. God even picked out a plot of land for the Zionists to live, Israel, never mind that the area had already been settled by other group of “God’s people,” first the Assyrians then the Canaanites. During the Roman occupation of Palestine, Christianity was founded by Paul of Tarsus as a less ruthlessly monotheistic sect of Judaism and a less exclusive one, which looked outwards from the Jews to the rest of the world. Several centuries later, Muhammad and his followers reverted to the uncompromising monotheism of the Jewish original, but not its exclusiveness, and founded Islam upon a new holy book, the Koran or Qur’an, adding a powerful ideology of military conquest to spread the faith. Christianity, too, was spread by the sword; wielded first by Roman hands after the Emperor Constantine raised it from eccentric cult to official religion, then by the Crusaders, and later by the conquistadores and other European invaders and colonists, with missionary accompaniment (Dawkins, 2006).

Contrary to Popular Opinion

Even though the original documents upon which the laws of the United States of America were derived, i.e. the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, are based on a Judeo-Christian ethic, it is not a Christian nation per se. The propagandists of today’s religious right in America, who are anxious to push their version of history, would have us believe differently. Yet contrary to their view, the fact that the United States was not founded as a Christian nation was early stated in the terms of a treaty with Tripoli, drafted in 1796 under George Washington and signed by John Adams in 1797:

As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character or enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Musselmen; and as said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries (stephenjaygould, 2008).

The opening words of this quotation would cause uproar in today’s Washington ascendancy. Yet Ed Buckner has convincingly demonstrated that they caused no dissent at the time, among either politicians or public.

In 1961, Barry Goldwater, a Republican candidate for President of the United States of America just two years prior, had this to say about the Republican Party’s religious right-wing and its attempts to influence politics:

There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism.

Quantum Physics

Perhaps one of the biggest conflicts the religion in general has faced over the past couple of centuries is its incongruence with the ways of the scientific world. One of the newest sciences, Quantum Physics - which includes Quantum Mechanics, is being touted by many scientific scholars as a science that is opening eyes and doors to new ways of thinking about old ways of thinking, and lends a new light on numerous theories that many have thought were etched in stone and incontrovertible. One surprising aspect of Quantum Physics is that it is being embraced by a variety of scholars in religious communities as well. Volumes of books have been written on the subject and continue to be appended. Simply put, Quantum Physics is the study of sub-atomic particles and the mechanics of how those particles work. Quantum Physics is a very complex subject and postulates theorems that are often very hard to get your head around. For years, the teaching of science has included the concept that atoms are made up of neutrons and protons at its core with electrons orbiting that nucleus. Quantum Physics poses the question: what occupies the space in between the electrons and an atom’s nucleus? In addition, one Quantum theorem states that electrons do not occupy any one single geometric location at any given time except when observed, and that electrons don’t travel in a linear fashion as previously postulated, but instead travels in waves.

Much of Quantum Physics can be boiled down to one simple yet phenomenal revelation – we are all connected. True, observations by humans will seemingly detect distances or space between any two people or objects, but Quantum Physics fills that void with atoms and sub-atomic particles. This idea leads to the concept that we are all connected and that everything we do, ultimately, has an effect on the universe. It may surprise some to learn that even the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, known as Hollywood, has picked up on the lessons being taught by Quantum Physics. A recent Steve Carell movie, “Evan Almighty” conveyed a similar message when Morgan Freeman, who was playing God to Carell’s Noah, makes the statement that “ark” stands for “act of random kindness” (Shadyac, 2007). That’s only one positive message from one movie, but it’s a start. 

Summary

Amongst the populace as a whole, the existence of one or more gods cannot be agreed upon, and no one religion can justifiably claim ownership of morality. History has consistently shown that differing religious factions seem compelled to obliterate one another or at least wield their political powers to influence their morality upon others. If it is primarily these religious conflicts that have brought us to our current state of existence, then why can’t we come together for the sake of the survival of the civilized world and call a truce? Just think of it, if we can all ultimately have an effect on the universe that means we are all affecting the universe in a positive or negative fashion. If we could just convince everyone to generate positive forces of energy into the universe then the universe would be a much more positive place for us all to inhabit. You can have an impact too by sharing this idea with everyone you know, you don’t have to be religious, or even believe in a God or a hereafter - you only have to believe that you can make a difference.

 

References

Bulliet, Richard W.; Crossley, Pamela Kyle; Headrick, Daniel R.; Hirsch, Steven W.; Johnson, Lyman L.; Northrup, David. (2005). The Earth and Its Peoples.
New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Colostate.edu (2008). The Edicts of King Ashoka. http://www.cs.colostate.edu/~malaiya/ashoka.html

Dawkins, Richard. (2006). The God Delusion. Great Britain: Bantam Press.

Hopfe, Lewis M.; Woodward, Mark R. (2001). Religions of the World.
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Shadyac, Tom (Director); Oedekerk, Steve (Writer). (2007). Evan Almighty [Motion picture]. United States: Universal Pictures

Smith, Charles D. (2004). Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s

Stephenjaygould.com (2008). Does the 1796-97 Treaty with Tripoli Matter to Church/State Separation? http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/buckner_tripoli.html