My interest in religion is far from new. It was my undergraduate major at Franklin and Marshall College before I went to medical school. It is an undying are of fascination for me because of the powerful impact it has always had and continues to have on history, culture, politics, war etc.
This impact has run the gamut from beautiful art, poetry, ethics and helping people lead more spiritual and productive lives. The dark side of religion has been and continues to be all too apparent.
What bothers me most is the assumption of exclusivity–my religion is metaphysically correct, yours is wrong. And furthermore I can regard you as ultimate evil, the enemy, not fully human and worthy of annihilation.
Perhaps a simple realization that ALL religion is man's creation might just give all of us pause to reflect. Our religion may "work" for us. Another's may "work" for them. We can respect their choices. They should ours as well.
As a recovering atheist I now do believe that "God" or some higher spiritual energy does exist. My belief is based on evidence not faith. But to continue….
This all came to mind, strangely enough last evening at the Metropolitan Museum of New York. It was an exhibition of the paintings of Dutch master Jan Gossart from the 16th century.
What struck me were his portrayals of Mary and baby Jesus. They were clearly blond, haired-blue eyed Northern Europeans. Of course this was standard operating procedure for Dutch, German, English, French artists.
I would love to be able to interview Gossart or any of his contemporaries. Did they truly belief that Mary and Jesus resembled their fellow Northern Europeans?
Would they have been shocked to see a black Jesus and Madonna painted by an African?
Since Mary and Jesus were historically Middle Eastern Jews it should be obvious that they didn't truly resemble each of these examples.
Does it matter? Did it matter to the artists themselves?
Probably not. After all we do make God in our own image.
The Jewish God from the Five Books of Moses is ostensibly a warrior God, quick to anger, to lead his people into battle and to demand destruction of other human beings.
This is not the esoteric spiritually enlightened Ein Sof of mystical Kabbalah centuries later.
Which is the "real" God? Does it matter?
Guess it depends on who is looking.