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Feather's Miscellany: God And Gods

“J. B. Priestley once remarked that if there were no God, man would have to invent one; and there’s some truth in that,’’ writes John Waddington-Feather.

The death last year of the President of North Korea highlighted what Priestley said. Kim Jonga-ll was treated as a god by North Koreans who openly wept in the streets when he died, even though his repressive regime was responsible for the deaths of thousands by famine in the 1990s. The people of North Korea had to mourn or they were punished by the state. They are even assessed as citizens by how much they adulate the Kim family. Of course, Kim Jonga-ll is only the latest in a long list of manmade gods and there are dictators in many countries today who regard themselves as self-styled gods.

Human beings have for millions of years been conscious of a being greater than themselves. If they couldn’t understand the concept of a spiritual being outside themselves, they created one like themselves, such as a Pharaoh or Roman Emperor. More recently we’ve had Hitler and Stalin – men with absolute power who were atheists but demi-gods to their followers and who ruled mercilessly. Millions were butchered in their death-camps and gulags.

It’s becoming fashionable now, in a society which has had three generations of affluence and living standards which have never been so high, for atheism to gain ground, for, of course, there’s no real need of God when all is going well. Material things and values have taken his place: wealth, possessions, football and pop idols. And those of us who would consider ourselves believers are also prone to worship a false god, religion – something Jesus fought against all his life. We’ve put the love of religion before the love of fellow men and women who don’t share our beliefs.

The Christian God is God for all people, whatever their faith or lack of it. He made us in his own image – whatever that means – and so I believe he is within all of us, a part of us which is divine to which we respond or not. We have the choice to accept or reject him for God is no tyrant. We can work with him or simply opt out and stop communicating with him through prayer.

My belief in God enables me to do two things which are essential to my physical and mental well-being. First, I confess my sins to God daily. In other words, I make a conscious effort to see where I’ve gone wrong and hopefully do better next time – on the way healing any relationship with any person I may have broken through my folly. Secondly, when I’m especially grateful for some blessing – my wife, my family and my friends, for example – I have someone to give thanks to; and daily I thank God for all the many blessings I receive: my love of music, literature and art; and my being intensely aware of the beauty of nature all around me. Who cannot but thrill at a fresh morning in May listening to birdsong and seeing new life burgeoning all around? Who does the atheist thank when he’s moved in this way?

I have one great problem regarding my atheist friends. I believe in God because of various experiences I’ve had throughout life, some of them mystical, others very mundane but nevertheless Godly. My problem is this. If God gives these experiences to myself, why doesn’t he reveal himself to non-believers? It’s a mystery – and that’s why I’m tolerant of their non-belief, focussing instead on their many kindnesses to me and to others, which in themselves are manifestations of God.

John Waddington-Feather ©

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