What I Know of Religion
By: Robert D Brinsmead
When I wrote Farewell to Religion (Verdict edition) back there in the 80’s, I said it was time to get this God off our backs and out of our hearts. Pretty rough sayings, eh? So I joined the human race, and God disappeared from my radar. But then God re-appeared in the human race in a way that it was not possible through religion/Bible/theology etc. Alexander Pope put it well in his classic poetry: “Cease from God to scan, the proper study of mankind is man.” This is where we can see the face of God – in the face of humanity. That is how we discover that God is love. First we discover that it is humanity’s highest attribute and where humanity is most truly human. Then we understand on this human level that love is by nature unconditional – and transcendent. And then Einstein-like, we can draw a conclusion from this human evidence that God must not only be that highest human quality, but much more so. This is what Luther hinted at when he said that we must do our theology from below (the human level) rather than from above (trying to fathom what God is).
This is the only way we can escape from religiously inspired violence – the great issue in our world right now. If we begin our theology from above we end up with a God theory to which we elevate to the status of the First Great Commandment. That is when it becomes anti-human and deadly. Allegiance to this God (Allah) becomes more important than our relationship to humanity. This religious devotion can lead us to do any inhuman thing out of loyalty to God (Allah). This can not only lead to Islamic violence, but this is the thing that has led to violent Judaism and violent Christianity. And especially when this “theology from above” has at is centre a God of violence, meaning that God defeats evil by acts of violence – The three great monotheistic religions have all worshipped a God of violence, no mistake about that.
A supreme example of this is the example of Abraham who is claimed to be the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This father of the three great religions heard the voice of God testing his loyalty by commanding him to murder his own son, which the old man was willing to do out of obedience to the First Great Commandment. When a person talks to God we call that prayer. When God talks to people we call this schizophrenia. No matter, the supreme example of faith is the willingness of a man to murder his son out of loyalty to God. A man who has that kind of loyalty to God (Allah) will be able to wipe out whole tribes of people, mutilate their bodies by taking their foreskins (eg. David and the Philistines), burn legions of heretics at the stake or cut the throat of hordes of infidels out of loyalty to this God of violence, who understandably calls for acts of violence to defeat His enemies and our enemies.
Such is the difference of doing our theology from below and doing our theology from above.