Concepts of God, Development and Survival
Does God exist? Most probably this question has been asked a number of times in human history, from time immemorial. The question has been answered in every occasion, but no conclusion has been reached. The concept of God exists in human mind through millions of years and will continue to remain through eternity. Whenever the thought of God comes into my mind, several questions arise simultaneously. Shall I believe in God? Is he a supernatural being sitting above the clouds in a place called heaven with blessings and rewards in one hand and cruelty and punishments in the other? How was the concept of God developed? Let me try to explore the divine route.
One concept regarding the beginning of religious ideas is the theory of ancestor worship. Primitive men believed that their relatives will live even after their death and hence they placed food and utensils with the dead body anticipating that they will be useful for their next life. This tendency was seen in the ancient religions of Egypt, Babylonians and China. Egyptians believed that the after-life of their relatives would remain safe and comfortable as long as the dead body remained undamaged. That was why they built huge pyramids to preserve the dead bodies with great care. As per the Babylonians, after death the soul of their relatives scared them and demanded food and help in different ways. Ancestor worship can also be seen in ancient Hindus and Chinese as the basis of religion. The traces of the same can be found even now in these countries by which people of different traditions perform annual rites to satisfy the souls of their ancestors.
Development during Human Evolution
It is believed that the evolution from the Homo Sapiens ancestors to the fully developed human beings witnessed attainment of several abilities and knowledge during different stages. They accomplished gradual development of self-consciousness, thinking power, power of communication, morality and community consciousness. Another important achievement during the evolution was the awareness about their finite life span and the imminent death. The most surprising fact was that every person was conscious about his own death only when he witnessed the death of some other persons and the rest of the times he almost forgot about this great phenomenon.
The development of self-consciousness and thinking power made man a unique being, entirely different from any other beings in the world. Once he became self-conscious and realized that he can think, he became anxious to know about everything happening around him. The sunrise, sunset, thunder shower, cyclone, marvelous climate change and the beauties and magic of nature made the anxious human mind to go deep beyond them to understand the secrets. Sometimes he felt helpless and insecure amidst the natural forces and some other times he worried about his finite life and the forthcoming death. He wanted to escape from the anxiety of insecure future and fear of death. That was the beginning of religion. Being self-conscious, he assumed vitality to everything in nature. He gave personal attributes to the sun, moon, rivers, sky, thunder, lightning, rain, forest, animals, birds and everything around him. He assigned them bodies and spirits and worshipped them assuming supernatural powers so that they could protect him from all his anxiety and dilemma. This generalised nature worship was seen everywhere, including Indians, Greeks, Germans and the Scandinavians.
This religion, otherwise called animism, which began with the embodiment of natural forces, gave him peace of mind, comfort and confidence. He offered sacrifices, prayers and several rituals to these spirits expecting protection and their blessings. When hunting gave way to agriculture and rising of domestic animals, fertility became an important aspect. Giving importance to fertility, which is feminine, the idea of female fertility Goddess arose and the worship of both male God and female goddess continued. Male-female classifications were given to Gods depending on their energy and functional aspects. For example, rain and sun were treated as male Gods, whereas earth and moon were considered as feminine. These fertility Gods and Goddesses were created by humans to meet the specific needs of their society. This religious culture persisted for several thousands of years till they are surpassed by the other developing religions including Monotheism, Henotheism, Polytheism and several other belief systems.
The major classifications of belief systems existing in the world are:
In Monotheism, a single God is worshipped. In Polytheism, multiple Gods are assigned for different activities of life. And in Henotheism there are multiple Gods with one superior head.
Among these, the Monotheism is widely popular. Initially confined to some limited tribal areas, Monotheism expanded into a universal concept. The theistic God in Monotheism was usually a personal God with supernatural powers, similar to a mighty emperor ruling this world from his throne in heaven, who needed to be praised and pleased to avail his blessings.
The major religions that exist in the present day belong to one or more of the above belief systems.
Hinduism consists of different religious belief systems. They extend from monotheism to henotheism and polytheism. The term Ishvara is used to address the supreme God. He is the creator of the universe and is filled in every beings and everywhere. The term Bhagavan is used to designate the Supreme Being in the form of a personal God, which is the equivalent term used in Christian and Islamic concept of God. Bhagavan is a general term used to represent a personal God and it can be Vishnu, Siva or Maheswara, Krishna, Rama or any other deity, and there are several Goddesses depending on the tradition and choice of the devotee. Brahman is used to represent the omnipotent, omnipresent, infinite Absolute which is the impersonal principle, consciousness and self of everything.
In Christianity, God is recognized as the concept of Trinity, composing Father (Jehovah), Son (Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit, within a single deity. These are the three different states of the same being. As per Christianity, Jesus Christ was crucified after undertaking the sins of human beings, and those who believed in Jesus Christ will get salvation. Even though Christians consider their religion as monotheistic, others especially Muslims consider Trinity as polytheistic.
A strict monotheism called Tawhid prevails in Islam. Muslims believe that Allah is the one and only God, the Eternal, Absolute. Their God is Most Compassionate and Most Merciful. He is regarded as a personal God who will always help his devotees whenever they are in trouble. The purpose of life is to please Allah by worship and good endeavors. According to them Mohammad was the final Prophet of God among the 124,000 messengers sent by God.
There is no supreme God in Buddhism. The Buddha does not accept or deny a supreme God or a creator. According to Buddhism, the highest goal of life is the accomplishment of Nirvana and the belief in a supreme God will interrupt its attainment. Buddhism insists us not to believe anything blindly, but to depend on one’s own reasoning and analysis before accepting the fact.
There is no God or creator in Jainism. They believe that the universe and everything in it always existed from time immemorial and everything in the universe is governed by natural laws. Every individual gets the results of their karmas due to a unique moral order prevailing in this universe. They believe that a moral life is possible even if you do not believe in a creator or God. Since it denies God, Jainism is considered as atheist philosophy.
As per Judaism, Jehovah the God, is the creator of the universe, eternal and is beyond time and space. In their concept of monotheism, God is the creator of matter and spirit, but he himself is neither of them. He knows the complete activities and thoughts of human beings, personally interacts with them and rewards those who follow his commandments and punishes those who disobey him.
Bahais believe in monotheism and believe in a single almighty God who was the creator of the universe and all creatures. He is beyond time and space, inaccessible, eternal, omniscient and omnipresent. He sends divine messengers to the world to spread religion in the world. Bahais feel that it is difficult for human beings to realize their God completely. He cannot be represented by a definite image and is normally referred by certain names like “All powerful”.
God in Sikhism, as described by Guru Nanak, is singular, formless, omnipresent, eternal and invisible. Their God has infinite qualities and can be realized by spiritually awakened devotees through meditation. With intimate faith, the devotees shall attain salvation. Sikhs believe that God exists for ever and is beyond time.
Symbols, Name and Personal God
In every religion, there are three basic things as far as the worship of God is concerned. They are Symbols, Names, and Personal God. All these three things are their weapons for fighting, claiming each other that only their names or their symbols or their personal Gods are the real ones and all the others are just legends.
Forms and symbols always appear simultaneously and nobody can restrict the use of symbols. Can you think about an omnipresent God without a form? Whenever you try, all sorts of images will pass through your mind because you cannot conceive the abstract as abstract. An ordinary man cannot think about an omnipresent God without a form or a symbol. Idolatry is the inherent nature of man. To go beyond it is a hard task; only perfect and God-realized man can do that.
Worship of a name or word is noticeable in all religions. Name of God is considered as sacred and holy beyond everything in the universe. We cannot think without words. We cannot separate thought from word forms. Everything in the universe can be represented by a name and form. Name brings form and form brings name. This truth is a fundamental psychological aspect that human beings cannot discard.
The idea of Personal God is everywhere except in Buddhism and Jainism. However, as a contradiction, the Buddhists and Jains worship their founders like a personal God. Jesus, Krishna and several deities have been worshipped all around the world. Why? Even though God is omnipresent and is revealing himself in every being, for human being he is only visible in the form of a human being. Even if he fights against it, the image of human God will always shine in his mind.
All religions claim that they are the real authorities of religion and their own Gods created this universe and everything in it. Surprisingly none of them seemed to have realized their God, but the dispute continues. None of them have seen their Gods, but the fight continues. The largest number of bloodsheds happened in this world were in the name of religion. It is better to become an atheist instead of boasting about unknown Gods. At least atheists will be sincere in their words than these religious people who talk a lot about God, but do not want to comprehend God.
General Principle behind the Concept of God
Good and evil are the two essential laws of life. From time immemorial man had been trying to find some solutions to reduce evils from his life. The more he advanced, the evils increased indefinitely. To escape from these evils he proposed a God, the redeemer who will protect him from all miseries. Religions advise people that beyond this physical world and these physical senses there exists something great, that cannot get hold of by any evils. That is God, which is known in different names in different religions. Man created God; that is true, but not the other way; it was not God who created man!
Primitive & Modern Man – No difference
Desire is a fundamental human nature that never ends. On achieving more and more accomplishments the desire is never fulfilled but continues to multiply. Desire is the basic cause of all miseries in the world. The situations of the primitive man and the modern man in this advanced age of science and technology remain the same. The primitive man desired something and could not fulfill them completely. Same is the case with modern man. Their desire will never be fulfilled even if the world comes to an end. They create God, fall down on his feet and beg for help. Most of them want material gain. Only a few of them seek divine vision.
Concept of Heaven
Some people are not satisfied with their present life situations filled with a mix of happiness and misery and they believe that those who do good things will go to a better place after death, where there is only happiness but no miseries. They called this infinite place as Heaven or Swarga, which was created by God. In heaven, they can live a perfect life. But, this idea is also not correct. First of all, an infinite place is an absurd concept. A place must have a beginning and should exist through time. Anything that has a beginning should have an end, and hence cannot be infinite. Heaven is an illusionary idea to attract devotees and motivate them to do good things in this world.
Future of the Concept of God
What is the future of the concept of God? More and more people are becoming atheists who do not believe in the existence of a supernatural God. The concept of personal God is under decline because there is no evidence to prove its existence. We hug science and science needs proof for everything; throw away your baseless faith with irrational foundation.
The time has come to think and redefine God in a better way. God is Love! What a beautiful concept; all dogmas and doctrines will melt away in this beautiful metaphor. Also, God is immortal, without beginning and end. It is omnipresent and invisible. It is your own self and is the same being and underlying principle present in everything in the universe. Then what to worry? No more confusion. No more affiliation with any religion. You need not believe in a personal theistic God. You are that Infinite Being. Instead of searching outwards through mountains and forests, temples and churches, clouds and oceans, you can go inwards deep within yourself, and find your real nature. But beware; the concept of such a non-theistic God will eventually remove the taproots of some major religions in the world.
Science has grown magnificently which makes most of the impossible things possible. From the creator’s hands the universe exploded with a big bang. Darwin, Newton, Einstein and many talented brains revealed major scientific theories that made God’s role almost irrelevant. More specific and scientific explanations are given to natural phenomena. Planetary explorations are progressing with big leaps. Standing on the boundary walls of horizon, man is going to control the movement of spheres in the solar system with his fingertips. Time has changed with the growth of science and many of the worldly problems have been resolved. At the same time, there is a spontaneous change in the life style of human beings. Anxiety of the primitive man returned back, but no more spirit worship or animism as remedy. Anti-anxiety medication serves the purpose.
We have a long way to go and vast domains to conquer. We are on the move, a continuous move, and a long journey is ahead. We are conscious about the strength and weaknesses of both science and religion. Both are imperfect, as such any conflict between them is impossible. Still we have time to think about the Perfect one, the God, the one without a second.
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