everyone by Kanghee Rhee

The definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary of the word “anthropomorphic” is
"1: - described or thought of as having a human form or human attributes anthropomorphic deities
- stories involving anthropomorphic animals
2: ascribing human characteristics to non-human things
- anthropomorphic supernaturalism
-anthropomorphic beliefs about nature"

So why an “Anthropomorphic God”?

As human beings, we have a limited knowledge of the universe we find ourselves in. The limitations have one major aspect: we cannot be outside ourselves.

We cannot be something or someone else, other than ourselves. Our sense organs are our way of experiencing and making sense of the world, but we are essentially limited to what those sense organs tell us and how we interpret the messages those organs deliver to our brain. Essentially we cannot know whether another person experiences the world in the same way as oneself. Ask 10 people for a description of anything and we’ll have 10 different answers. 

And, although we see ourselves as individuals with only the tenuous connection of geography and upbringing to differentiate between us, we are in fact connected in ways we are completely unaware of. The discoveries of the micro-world of physics, demonstrate the connectivity between all things. The concept of “nothing” is just that, nothing. Nothing doesn’t exist. We may see gaps, but that is because of the limitations of our sensory organs. Physics has demonstrated that at the atomic and even molecular level, there are no gaps. It’s all connected. 

Scientific discoveries illuminate the interconnected nature of reality, revealing the intricate dance of particles and systems that make up the cosmos. Quantum entanglement, with its tantalizing implications of non-locality and instantaneous correlation, reminds me that separateness is an illusion. A consequence of this connectedness is what Lorenz was hinting at, when he described the flapping of a butterfly’s wings on one part of the planet may be the ultimate cause of a tornado in another part of the planet. Every choice we make has consequences, both seen and unseen. It would be good to be conscious of this, especially in our dealings with our fellow human beings. 

So, if everything is connected then, where does that leave what we call “God”. Most of the popular religions place this Deity somehow outside the universe. And here we have the anthropomorphic definitions of that Being. As we cannot get outside our limited senses, we cannot, by definition, describe something outside our direct experience. So we do what we have always done: we invent stuff. And that is how we end up with God as an old man who has favourites and who gets nasty with those not in favour. Ask anyone to prove what the priests tell us and all they can come up with is a book. A book is not an experience, even if it records experiences others have had. But a book is not an experience, it’s just a book: words on paper which a human being wrote. It is limited to all the boundaries listed above. 

Throughout history, there have been individuals who have understood this and have sought to communicate this fundamental truth. Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism, spoke of the Tao as the underlying principle of the universe, transcending human concepts and language. He encouraged a return to simplicity and harmony with the natural order, recognizing the interconnectedness of all things.

Similarly, the Persian mystic poets Shams and Rumi, renowned for their ecstatic poetry, celebrated the unity of existence and the divine. Their verses speak of love as the unifying force that dissolves the illusion of separateness, revealing the underlying oneness of all creation.

In Buddhism, the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, emphasize the interconnectedness of all phenomena and the impermanence of individual identity. The concept of "inter-being" underscores the interdependence of all beings, inviting practitioners to cultivate compassion and mindfulness in their interactions with the world.

Jesus, in his teachings, spoke of God as a loving and compassionate presence, inviting his followers to love one another and to recognize the divine spark within each individual. He emphasized the importance of forgiveness, humility, and service to others, embodying the interconnectedness of all humanity.

Kabir, the 15th-century Indian mystic poet, similarly emphasized the unity of all existence and the presence of the divine within each individual. His verses, filled with imagery drawn from everyday life, speak to the universal nature of spiritual truth and the futility of sectarian divisions. Kabir's teachings emphasize the importance of direct experience over dogma and ritual, inviting seekers to look within themselves for the truth that transcends religious boundaries.

In more recent times, Prem Rawat, Author and Peace Educator, has sought to communicate the message of peace and inner fulfilment through direct experience. His teachings emphasize the importance of self-awareness and appreciation of life's interconnectedness, inviting individuals to find peace within themselves and to cultivate a deeper understanding of their place in the universe.

These teachers, spanning different cultures and traditions, all point to the same fundamental truth: the interconnectedness of all things. They invite us to look beyond the limitations of our senses and concepts, to recognize the underlying unity that binds us all together. In embracing this truth, we can cultivate compassion, empathy, and a deeper appreciation for the interconnected web of existence in which we are all woven.

This, of course, suggests that religious organizations, with their ideas of good and bad, have a very limited view in comparison. Instead of recognizing the interconnectedness and unity of all existence, they often propagate anthropomorphic interpretations of God, portraying the divine as a figure separate from and judgmental towards humanity. This narrow understanding of divinity can lead to divisive beliefs and behaviours, fostering a sense of exclusivity and superiority among adherents and perpetuating conflict and strife among different religious communities. By clinging to anthropomorphic conceptions of God, religious organizations risk overlooking the deeper truths of interconnectedness and love that lie at the heart of spiritual teachings. 

The use of an anthropomorphic concept of God by religious organizations to perpetuate exclusivity and accumulate wealth is a complex and multifaceted issue that touches on various aspects of human behaviour, power dynamics, and institutional structures. 

Portraying God in anthropomorphic terms can serve to reinforce the authority and legitimacy of religious institutions. By presenting God as a figure with human-like characteristics, desires, and preferences, these organizations establish themselves as intermediaries between humanity and the divine, thereby consolidating their control over religious narratives, rituals, and practices. This hierarchical structure allows religious leaders to wield considerable influence over their followers, dictating moral codes, interpreting sacred texts, and determining the parameters of acceptable belief and behaviour. 

Furthermore, the anthropomorphic portrayal of God can be used to justify and perpetuate exclusivity within religious communities. Belief in a deity who favours certain individuals or groups over others can lead to the establishment of hierarchies based on perceived religious superiority or divine favour. This exclusivity can manifest in various forms, including religious elitism, sectarianism, and discrimination against those deemed to be outside the fold of acceptable belief. By promoting an "us versus them" mentality, religious organizations may seek to strengthen internal cohesion and identity at the expense of external inclusion and diversity. 

The accumulation of wealth by religious organizations is often justified in the name of serving God's will or advancing religious objectives. However, the pursuit of material wealth and worldly power can overshadow the spiritual mission and ethical principles espoused by religious teachings. This results in a disconnect between the professed values of a religious organization and its actual practices, leading to hypocrisy, corruption, and exploitation. As we have seen over the past few years both among the Christian (e.g. sexual abuse), the Moslem (e.g. Ayatollah) and the Jewish (e.g. Israel) religious hierarchies. 

The desire to protect accumulated wealth and maintain institutional power can lead religious organizations to engage in self-preservation tactics, including efforts to suppress dissent, silence critics, and resist change. This defensive posture can hinder progress, innovation, and adaptation within religious communities, ultimately undermining their ability to respond effectively to the evolving needs and challenges of society. 

Religious organisations could and should play an important role in providing spiritual guidance, community support, and moral leadership, To achieve this, it is essential that they remain accountable, transparent, and true to the core values of compassion, justice, and inclusivity that lie at the heart of all genuine religious traditions.

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