Saturday, July 24, 2010

God in Man's Image

First, excuse the gender bias.  I could have said, "God in People's Image."   Anyway...

I read an article that said Bishop Desmond Tutu was going to retire from public life at the age of 79.  I started going through my memory banks to recall if Tutu had turned up any crazy Christian ideas and I couldn't really think of anything.  I did some searching through some of the atheist blog network and didn't find anything negative about him.
Here is obviously a deeply religious person that, quite frankly, has gone relatively unscathed in the atheist/agnostic blogosphere.  This really got me thinking about the concept of a personal God and the image of God.  Genesis 1:27 says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him."  As an atheist, I don't believe this, obviously.  Instead, I subscribe to man created God in his image, and that image varies greatly according to the man (or woman).

It is striking that someone such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, who, by all accounts that I can find, is a highly respected man, even in the agnostic/atheist community.  His efforts to end Apartheid in South Africa and his outspoken criticisms of many African leaders for their idiotic stances on AIDS are legendary and worthy of praise.  So, how can the God of this man be the same as the God of someone like Fred Phelps or Jerry Falwell (who declared Tutu a phony for his stance against Apartheid)?

To me, the answer is simple.  Man has created God in his own image and that image of God tells a lot about the man.  Susan B. Anthony once said, "I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."  I think this quote speaks volumes for the God in man's image theory.  Carl Sagan summed it up thus, "It is said that men may not be the dreams of the Gods, but rather that the Gods are the dreams of men."

I have a lot of Christian friends.  Most atheists do for the simple fact that Christians are everywhere.  These friends of mine are all good, loving, caring people.  While they may disagree with my opinion that they have created their own image of God based on the type of person they are, I think it is very telling.

There are literally dozens of "mainstream" Christian denominations.  They can't all be right, but they happily (mostly) coexist because the core beliefs are common.  I believe that people will gravitate to the denomination that best suits their image of God in their own mind.  There are certainly many others that do disagree greatly with the denomination they are in, perhaps as a product of how they were raised, yet they, to some degree, reject those teachings in favor of what their conscious tells them.

So, while I may disagree with you on your belief in your personal God, it is ultimately the kind of person you are that is going to dictate how you are perceived.  Not only by me, but by your friends as well, even if they don't share your choice of denomination.

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