The Bible remains an interesting document on how the idea of God evolved.
The Bible presents us with a succession of gods, each a striking improvement on the previous ones, making it possible for us to have a nobler and deeper vision of God. But it all began with tribal gods and human sacrifices. The Semitic faiths are almost ashamed of their gods today. They prefer their Prophets.
The God of Noah was not the God of Job. Noah'sGod was an angry and punishing God. The God of Job was argumentative and philosophic. Job raised the problem of evil, but left it unexplained. Micah threw out Noah'sGod. He did not left it unexplained. Mioach threw out Noah'sGod. He did not even preserve Job'sGod. He denounced blood sacrifice. He asks the Jews: ?What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God??And when we come to Jesus, he overturned everything. He was for non-violence. His God was a God of compassion, mercy and forgiveness. Allah is still a punishing God. His evolution has been very slow.
The Jews invented the myth that only one religion could be true. That is their religion. They invented another myth: that they were the ?chosen people? of God. These assertions had calamitous consequences for the world, and to Jews in particular.
Judaism gave birth to Christianity and Islam. It gave to Christianity its ethical passion and a sense of superiority. The Romans gave it their organising ability and the desire for world domination. And Judaism gave to Islam its dogmatism and fanaticism.
After Emperor Constantine, Christianity became intolerant of all other faiths. Life became a ?fleeting show on earth?, beauty a ?mere pleasure? and a ?temptation? and abstinence the highest ?virtue.? St. Augustine gave the dictum: ?If any man come to me and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.? Here is the source of Christian intolerance. With that Europe went into the Dark Ages. Reformation broke the religious spell and Renaissance brought back the spirit of free enquiry.
With Renaissance the scientific age was also born?the new world of Copernicus and Columbus, of Luther and Calvin of Galileo and Descartes. The sky changed with Copernicus and the earth with the explorers! Man moved from the religious certainties of the past to scientific certainties of the mechanical world of Newton. The infallibility of the Church gave way to scientific reasoning. Many of the restrictions men lived by gave way to libertine morals. Renaissance broke up the power of the Papacy and established Protestantism.
The history of the last five hundred years saw a simultaneous growth of political freedom, economic prosperity, intellectual advancement and social reform, but the period also saw the steady decay of traditional religion, morality and social order.
There was more violence, oppression and cruelty than there used to be. Man tried to control his conduct by external means and not by self-control.
Humanism is the religion of the majority of intellectuals today. In Einstein'sworld, there was no need for a Personal God. Matter and spirit were found to be one. Dualim was dead. Yes, after two thousand years of dogmatic belief that matter and spirit are opposed to each other!
Uncertainty, a fundamental agnosticism, a sense of uneasiness that we are hastening confusedly to unknown ends ?these are the characteristic features of our times. The future is incalculable.
In all cultures, the greatest gift of life is the dream of a higher life. The pursuit of perfection has been the dominant motive of human life. And yet look at the present scene: today the greatest menace to mankind comes from religious fundamentalism. And Islam is the prime cause. It is one religion which has refused to reform its way of life and thought.
One used to think that with the growth of education, there would be greater understanding among peoples. This was a false hope. The growth of Nazism led to the worst Holocaust of history and the Cold War showed that it is not easy to establish peace on earth.
Today we talk about the conflict of civilisations. As is to be expected, there are many well-meaning people who dismiss it as wild thinking. But it is real. It is as real as Nazism and the Holocaust.