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Religion Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2007 - 01:08:31

Oh God, where art thou?
By Nick Paccione
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 8, 2006, 01:39

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Read the Bible! If nothing else read Genesis and then ask yourself if a rational person could actually believe that these are literal, historical stories about our human ancestors and earth�s creation. I�m talking about Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Moses, Noah and the rest.

A recent poll taken by Rasmussen Reports indicates that most Americans, 63 percent, believe the Bible is literally true and the Word of God. The survey found just 24 percent thinking otherwise.

Aside from all the scientific proof that debunks the Bible�s literal account of the world�s history, there is a more pressing question in my mind. The Bible immerses the reader in stories where God is always popping up in person. He single-handedly catches Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit. He tells Abraham to sacrifice his son to prove his love. He speaks to Moses in the form of a burning bush. He gives Noah the blueprint for an ark. In the New Testament he sends his son to die for our sins. And he speaks directly to Christ a couple of times, too. If we are to believe the Bible, God was much more direct in the old days. He was �personally� involved.

My question: �Where�s he been during the last 2000 years�? Evangelicals say he still speaks to us every time we pray and read the Bible. Some environmentalists say he speaks through nature and all its wonders. Others find him in their loved ones and within their own souls. Atheists say he didn�t exist then and he doesn�t exist now.

Today if someone says God is literally speaking to them, they end up on Zyprexa or one of several other anti-psychotic drugs. In some cases, they get their own TV show and make a fortune collecting from the gullible.

If the Bible is the literal truth then we must ask, �What happened?" Did God die? Did he abandon us? Or is he actually speaking to us through Pat Robertson? (Wouldn�t that be the ultimate kick in the head?) I don�t have the answer. And I believe to my core that anyone who thinks he or she has the answer (a fundamentalist of any stripe) is deluded.

I refuse to believe that God, once so meddlesome in people�s lives, according to Bible accounts, has changed his to-do list so drastically. No more walks in the garden. No more sleuth-like pursuits of brother-killing criminals like Cain. No parting of seas. No direct instruction of where and why to move like Jacob and Moses received. And how long has it been since anyone has been turned into a pillar of salt for disobedience?

Has God changed his ways? Or is this more compelling evidence that the Bible stories about God�s interaction with mankind are not literal truth?

Bible stories just don�t depict the God we know. From my experience, God leaves it to our own judgment and will as to whether we believe or not. He never literally appears in my garden or bush -- burning or otherwise. If I choose to sense his presence around me or within me, that�s my own experience and my personal perception. It has nothing to do with the Bible. It�s between God and me. I can�t sell you on it and I can�t deny your experience that denies or affirms God�s existence.

But quite sadly, history continues to tell us that as long as people believe that their religion or �holy book� is the literal truth, we will never make progress toward a peaceful world. The �holy� books of each and every world religion were never meant to be read as literal prose. They are poetic. Strip away the tales and myths and you�ll discover that they all offer the same guidance for living: love one another.

Taken poetically, Christianity has a place for everyone as do all the other religions. Example: The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus was not God�s only son. �And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli etc. etc . . . which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.�

But the New Testament gives much more detail about Jesus being the only Son of God, conceived through the Holy Spirit by the Virgin Mary. Now only Christians are on board for this part of the story. And Fundamentalists are convinced that if you don�t accept Jesus, you simply go to hell when you die.

Wouldn�t it be healthier to teach our children that Christ came to earth to teach us how to live? Everyone who believes in God can accept, at least poetically, that Jesus is the Son of God just as Adam is the Son of God. And if Adam is the Son of God then we all are. And everyone who is living a Christ-like life could get the seal of approval even if they don�t actually believe in Christ. This notion that you can drown your kids in the family bath tub, go to prison, accept Jesus and then be on your merry way to an eternity in heaven is ridiculously out of whack. People that believe this stuff also believe that a Jew who feeds the poor, cares for the sick, and loves his neighbor is going to hell because he hasn�t �accepted Jesus.�

This is what Bible literalists are teaching their children -- Bible prose over Bible poetry. It�s a mechanical mental exercise in religious training that embraces the letter of the law at the expense of the spirit of love and compassion at the root of Jesus� teachings. Because no matter what anyone believes, every sane person agrees that there�s something mystical about love; that in a perfect world we would do unto others as we would want them to do unto us; and that respect for our fellow man would be the ideal.

Jesus preached this. Buddha taught this. And yes even Mohamed shared these principles. This is the poetry of their message. Spare me the details of the stories that present a spiteful, jealous God who separates and divides. And if anything you read in your Holy Book leads you to judge, condemn or harm your fellow man in any way, rip it out and burn it. Take your Zyprexa and you can be sure that it�s not God that�s been speaking to you.

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