I bet many of you have been astounded by Karen Armstrong’s work on The Case for God (well if you haven’t previously, you’re about to). Read these two paragraphs:
We regularly ask God to bless our nation, save our queen, cure our sickness, or give us a fine day for the picnic. We remind God that He has created the world and that we are miserable sinners, as though this may have slipped His mind. Politicians quote God to justify their policies, teachers use him to keep order in the classroom, and terrorists commit atrocities in his name. We beg God to support “our” side in an election or a war, even though our opponents are, presumably, also God’s children and the object of his love and care.
Religion is a practical discipline that teaches us to discover new capacities of mind and heart. …Like any skill, religion requires perseverance, hard work, and discipline. Some people will be better at it than others, some appallingly inept, and some will miss the point entirely. But those who do not apply themselves will get nowhere at all. Religious people find it hard to explain how their rituals and practices work, just as a skater may not be fully conscious of the physical laws that enable her to glide over the ice on a thin blade.
A subtle, delicate way to define God and religion, two magic words that people utilize (underrate, I should say) in almost everything they do. Bearing in mind that Karen’s an (more than) expert in comparative religion study, the fact that she uses common examples that are so close to us is simply mindblowing. Both concepts are huge and saturated, hence people would usually opt their unique way to explain it to others. Karen Armstrong, she…fluently, flawlessly, define them in such flowing sentences.
Related to that, this Thursday evening I had a date with three single ladies, going out to the movies and watched Gnomeo and Juliet. If you thought that we’re going to have some pathetic talk on love in the sleepover afterwards, you’re utterly wrong. With all credits going to Dwinta Kuntaladara (and a Rama-Sitta painting on my wall that stimulated the whole thing), we had an IR-ish discussion on religions, and an epiphany came across my head. Said her:
Jadi Fu, aku punya pikiran kayak gini: Imagine God being the center of gravity–bukan Clausewitz, bukan (strategis perang, red). Just, the center of everything. And then there is you, standing at its North, me at its South, terus Ipeh…you’re at the East, dan Candini di Barat. Every single one of us tries to get ourself closer to God. How? Afu, since you’re here (pointing on ‘N’), you move southward. I, I move northward. Ipeh akan bergerak ke Barat, dan Candini bergerak ke Timur. Arah-arah itu adalah apa yang agama kita masing-masing suruh kita untuk lakukan. In the end, we’re reaching the same destination.
The clash happens when you see me going to the opposite direction of where you’re traveling to. Some people would tell, “Hey, kamu jalan ke arah yang salah. Jalan menuju Tuhan itu ke Utara!” Padahal, dari posisi kamu Fu, South is where you should go to.
My reaction was, as most of you probably are, stunned. “I love the idea, Dwinta. I. Totally. Do.” I love the idea that God is a destination and religion is a map to get there. It’s simply impossible that everyone’s going towards the same direction because God made you born with different initial positions, different stories. MAN, THAT PERSPECTIVE CAN ACTUALLY PUT THIS WHOLE WORLD IN PEACE! I’m saying this with goosebumps all over me.
Many people are busy sharing their ‘map’ with others, debating on which publisher created the best map, and overlooked the obligation to actually describe what you’ll find in the end of the road. God, the divine being, in form of Allah, Yahweh, avatars, or whatever other different names humans label Him with.
In addition to that, I’m a true believer that language and semantics bear some of the guilt of mankind’s misunderstandings towards each others’ religion. The fact that the oldest Bible was written in Hebrew and got translated to almost every language in the world leaves a part of me questioning on its purest meanings. Same assumption applies to Islam’s Qoran, Buddha, and Hindi’s handsome scripts.
Abrahamic religions densify God into one single image to Whom their believers can cling on, ask for, and be weak to. Dharmic and Taoic religions, however, believe that God is a grand construction that is all-encompassing, present wherever humanity is present. After all, we’re looking for the same light. After all, we believe that there is something else, something big, beyond what is physically seen.