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Redefining God

For the past thirty years I have made this statement: The single most important question facing Jews and Christians is “What do you mean by ‘God’?” In Buddhism and religions of the East they laugh at our superstitions about something we call “God.” I have often asked: “When are Jews and Christians going to grow up, evolve spiritually, and let go of the archaic and primitive biblical concepts of ‘God’?”

Well, now after thirty years of my asking these questions in columns and lectures, finally, the religious world is catching up with me and asking the same questions.

The lead story in the Wall Street Journal for April 21 (2000) was: REDEFINING GOD; THIS EASTER AND PASSOVER EVEN TRADITIONALISTS ARE RETHINKING THEIR IMAGE OF GOD. Wonderful, that I lived to see it happen. This means there is hope for growth and maturity out of childish superstitions.

The article stated: “Across the country the faithful are redefining God, dissatisfied with conventional images of an authoritarian and paternalistic deity.

“More mystical forms, gentler, are finding a far more receptive audience in today’s society, as well as the leading theological seminaries.

“Reform Jews are rolling out a new prayer book that offer alternatives to the traditional ‘Lord’ with such descriptions as ‘source.’ It’s amazing,” said Rabbi Elyse Frishman, who worked with the revision.

“The Rev. James Forbes, Senior Minister of the great Riverside Church in New York City, defines God to his congregation as “a force field of positive energy.” Anne Lamott, Presbyterian minister, defines God today as “the buds of the Apricot tree, or California poppies bursting up where there has only been dirt.”

“Surprising numbers of otherwise conventional people have now returned to the feminine image of God as a woman, a Goddess, using the pronoun ‘she’ rather than the patriarchal ‘he.'”

That is well worth celebrating. Any student of religion knows that God was a woman for 25,000 years, going back to the Upper Paleolithic age, until the patriarchal, male-dominated religions of Judaism and Christianity did a slick sex change surgery and turned her into a man.

It is encouraging to realize that human beings are, finally, spiritually evolving and saying “good bye” to the crude and primitive images of biblical male Gods.

And I must say, it is personally pleasing to me that, in essays and lectures, I have been promoting this enlightenment for the past thirty years.