The dangers of an anthropomorphic God

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More and more, I see the case for atheism.

I am not an atheist. I am more a Taoist. Taoism does not use anthropomorphic images of God. The Tao is not a person. In the Abrahamic religions, not only is God portrayed as a person, humans are also said to be created in the image of God. As such, human are given dominion over the earth. The book of Genesis has this passage:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1: 26–27)

This is the source of an anthropocentric worldview. It is in stark contrast with the Taoist view. Chuang Tzu said that “the universe and I are born together; the ten thousand things and I are one.” In Taoism, there is no notion that humans are somehow separate from the rest of creation. The Native American worldview is very similar to the Taoist one. Chief Seattle said, “We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumes flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle: these are our brothers. All things are connected like the blood which unites one’s family.” Thus, in Taoism and in Native American religions, man is not elevated over the rest of creation. He has no special status.

The Tao Te Ching says that “Heaven and Earth are not kind. They treat humans as straw dogs.” On the surface, this seems cold. But it has subtle wisdom. Why should the Tao favor humans over the trees, the rivers and the other animals? Much of the environmental damages done in modern age has to do with a human-centered worldview which treats all other things, both animate and inanimate, as objects to be exploited. According to Genesis, humans are given stewardship over the earth. Unfortunately, we don’t have the wisdom necessary to do this job. Unbridled greed and apathy toward the other creatures do not help either. In the end, we hurt ourselves.

There is another danger of the anthropomorphic image of God. God can easily become the projection of our ego. Just as author Anne Lamott said, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Perhaps not all Jews, Christians and Muslims do that. But this is a human tendency to project our own love and hate to God, if God is seen as a personal God. This is a recipe for disaster.

The Tao in Taoism is not personal. The Tao Te Ching says that “the Tao follows nature.” I am much more comfortable with the God of Nature. Such a God does not take sides. It does not favor one group of people over other groups.

What we need is a “God” which is impartial. Heaven and Earth are not kind. It is because they are impartial. They love the ten thousand things equally. We can even catch a glimpse of the impartial God in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5: 43–45)

Clearly, a God that sends sunshine and rain to all people is an impartial God. Such a God resembles Mother Nature, not an ordinary person who most likely has personal likes and dislikes, friends and enemies. Thus, Jesus’s “God” is more like the Tao, who does not favor one nation over another, one race over another, or one person over another.

Published author, Zen teacher, professor, scientist, philosopher, social commentator, socially-engaged human

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