God has been caught in the crossfire, and has become a focal element in many of the conflicts tormenting the world today. It is tempting to appeal to spirituality in times of tension-tempting because religion has the power to bring people together, and because it is easy to define enemies based on differences in belief. Thus, wars are made in the name of God, and faith is used to suppress opponents. In either case religion is blamed.
God is also under fire from a different angle; the discord between science and faith causes almost as much controversy as recruiting God for duty in time of war. The conflict between science and religion, in combination with the association between faith and aggression, has produced considerable aversion toward any form of spirituality. The critique is relevant and yet somewhat unfair. True, most religions have been involved in some sordid affairs, but that is not the complete picture. Mass media are partly responsible. Drawn toward conflicts, journalists tend to create a biased depiction; their focus is on the negative aspects of religion such as war, terrorism, and repression. The positive qualities are rarely discussed. A vast number of people have found considerable comfort and joy in faith, and most religions are primarily aimed at helping strangers, rather than killing them. Thus, religions not only promote hostility, but they are also deeply involved in alleviating calamities by appealing to compassion and tolerance. In order to obtain an unbiased view, it is essential to consider carefully what impact religion really has on society.
The question is: What carries most weight? What if all that has happened in the name of God should be added to a balance scale-the good on one side, and the bad on the other-without considering whether it is appropriate to put the blame, or praise, on God. In a way, this would be "A Day of Judgment for the Divine." My discussion presumes that the side of the balance scale with the good will hit the ground.
Then again, history is not giving us the answer we ought to seek; it is the future we should care about-not the past. It is conceivable that a hundred years from now people will not even consider bringing out the scale. Depending on how we are able to reap the potential that is present in human spirituality, the contribution of future creeds to improving society may be vastly superior to what we have seen in the past.
It is important to keep in mind that, biologically speaking, humans have not changed appreciably over the last 100,000 years, and are unlikely to do so in the next thousands of years. Our innate tendencies towards spirituality will remain-as will our predispositions for both violence and compassion. We need to make the most of human nature as it is. Taking advantage of human spirituality may prove a highly rational stance.
When it comes to improving the condition of humankind, science and religion both have crucial contributions to offer. If we are to benefit from mankind's spiritual propensity, we need a platform that deals with the following three issues: One, how to reconcile science with religion; two, how to create tolerance among different religious doctrines; and three, how to strengthen the positive aspects of human spirituality. I believe a first step towards creating such a platform is to update the religious perspectives with regard to our present knowledge. That is the main topic of this book.
The concept of God has many denotations. In the Western world most people associate God with the Christian God, but human spirituality is far more diverse. Mankind has generated numerous belief systems, and those with us today are continuously changing. Skepticism toward certain aspects of any particular creed should, therefore, not be considered grounds for rejecting religiousness altogether. It is possible to find ways of worship that avoid the conflicts mentioned above.
No creed remains untouched by the shifts of society. On the other hand, arbitrary changes, whether in religious doctrine or other aspects of human culture, are not necessarily improvements. Thus, the important question is how to use human ingenuity to improve, or bring out the best in, our systems of faith.
For me, the concept of God includes all types of spiritual worship. The Divine Force I describe is meant to be a common denominator for the various creeds. The concept can be given a minimum of content by associating it with the creation of the Universe. Whether or not God exists is then a semantic question.
Not so many years ago scientists assumed that the Universe had always been there; today we are fairly certain it had a beginning. The term "God" can be used as a name for the foundation or origin of our Universe or as a name for what constitutes the Universe. I hope those who have an aversion toward the word "God" will consider the use of the word herein with an open mind.
The first two chapters add substance to this concept of God. The following two chapters deal with two topics that are close to the core of most denominations: The third chapter details the current model for what the Universe is and how it came into existence, i.e., the Story of Creation, while the fourth chapter adds advice about how one ought to pursue life, including the question of a moral code. The final chapter looks to the future.
The Bible based its Genesis and its moral commandments on the knowledge available at the time. The purpose was to help people understand and relate to the world they lived in, including how to interact with fellow human beings. Over the course of the past two thousand years, there has been an enormous expansion of knowledge. Unfortunately, it has proven difficult for Christianity, or for that matter other religions, to adapt to these advances. The abyss separating the secular and spiritual aspects of society has widened to such an extent that it seems nearly impossible to find a way across.
I believe, however, that it is possible to close this abyss or, at least, to construct a bridge over it-without compromising either faith or science. With this as my goal, I shall describe our present scientific understanding of the Universe and life on Earth, but at the same time suggest a spiritual way of sensing the world. My intention is to create a basis for those denominations that wish to adapt to present realities. Science is difficult to avoid. Yet, as will be explained, this does not necessarily mean the various faiths need to reject their own visions and principles.
Human spirituality has a considerable potential for improving society. Although science provides us with knowledge, religion is important when it comes to utilizing present wisdom. Commandments from God have certain advantages, when compared to laws or professional recommendations, in that there is a tendency for people to prefer spiritual advice.
This book contains footnotes with comments and references for further reading. Although much of the relevant information can be found on the Internet, I tend to avoid Internet addresses-because they are volatile and because relevant pages can generally be found using keywords from the text. Also included are text figures and appendixes for the purpose of providing supplementary information pertaining to particular subjects. The book is illustrated with photographs taken by the author and meant to reflect religious sentiments. An index concludes the book.