When I was young, I was taught that different faiths were different pathways to the same supreme Spirit, called God, for practical purposes. Thinking about it, and this is a layman’s view, not that of an expert on religion, God must seem different to people of different ethnicity, culture and social background.
So, over the years, I’ve dipped into all kinds of books, out of plain curiosity, to experience in a second-hand way other people’s’ perception of ‘God’. Animistic beliefs put life and soul into the natural world, every tree, animal and force of nature is to an extent feared,yet respected. Mother nature was kind and generous but had the power to punish when crossed. The spirits of the natural environment were always to be respected. However, native Americans also believed in a Great Spirit. This animistic belief, shared by many indigenous and aboriginal people, is very ancient, even prehistoric.
Then, there were the polytheistic beliefs that seemed like a slowly revolving prism revealing the many facets of a spiritual world peopled by multiple deities. Each deity personified an aspect of good or evil. The Greeks and Romans believed in many gods and demigods, many of whom took human form but ruled over certain aspects of human life. Apollo, the god of music, Venus/Aphrodite, the goddess of love, Mars, the god of war, Neptune/Poseidon, god of the sea, and many more. Yet, there was still one Supreme Being, a head-god who ruled this spiritual realm of multiple deities. Polytheism is also shared by many cultures and civilizations around the world. The perception of higher spiritual beings are also of ancient origin, and possibly emerged with the dawn of civilization when human society turned more complex and hierarchical.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the religions of the Book, appear to have emerged from a vision of God as the only Supreme Spirit or Omnipotent power. Monotheism arose to oppose idolatry and the evils of excess and degeneration as may be seen in the Bible’s Old Testament. The nature and perception of God underwent a change.
Having been brought up in the Catholic monotheistic tradition, I began to discover aspects of the faith that now shape my personal vision of God. This vision evolved over many milestones in life, fraught with doubt, disillusionment, disappointment and the challenge of transcending these difficulties. Yet, the pilgrimage has brought me to the stage where goodness, holiness and piety don’t exist in isolation, nor are these detached from ebbs and flows of society today. The secular world is where I discovered, God lived. The forces of goodness and love exist in the secular world, as do malice and evil. Yet, the central theme of most faiths is compassion, truth, forgiveness, justice, peace and mercy.
These virtues, I found in some humble human beings who were generous even with the little they had. Their humanity was in my view Christ-like. In the kind actions of these, was a glimpse of a compassionate, loving and forgiving God, one whose might lay in love, not in hate, war, greed or oppression of the poor. A God of equality, truth and justice for all.
If I believe in an ideology of compassion, justice, peace and mercy, and find it in the secular world, I think I have found God. To me, God is a socialist.