As promised in my last post, I did indeed read Book 1 of Neale Donald Walsch’s “Conversations With God.” I had started it some months ago, decided it was boring and quit reading. However, I became intrigued by the boiling anger the book generates in some Christians, so decided to give it another go.
The book actually became interesting as I got more into the text. I read some things that were almost profound; other things that were interesting; and some things that I thought were just plain dumb. Nothing that I read was really earth-shaking. In general, Walsch’s God (hereinafter referred to as “WG”) simply rehashed a lot of existing philosophy and religious beliefs. Some of these beliefs come from Christianity or Judaism (the so-called “Abrahamic” faiths) and some came from Buddism, Hinduism or Taoism (the so-called “Brahmic” faiths). The rest came from Walsch himself.
I will give Walsch a lot of credit for starting a new conversation, if not with God, about God and our concepts of the divine and the infinite. The danger in this is that it will draw a lot of anger from devout religionists, who already have “the truth” and don’t want it messed with. They see any new examination into the nature of God as blasphemy and the work of the devil. I, however, have an open mind. I think it is a healthy exercise to brush several millennia of dust from ancient religious texts and to reexamine their premises. Man’s ideas about science, government, business, art and other aspects of culture have continued to evolve over the centuries. It is only our concepts of the infinite that are fixed and static and not allowed to grow.
I will largely paraphrase what WG says in the book, in order to save space. Here are some of the things I found intriguing:
1. WG is pantheistic. That means that everything is God. God is not separate from his creation; he is the universe and everything in it. It means that human beings are part of God and not separate from him. We are a finite expression of the infinite. WG doesn’t always do a good job of explaining this, at one point stating that we humans are “Gods.” That won’t sit well with many readers. Personally, I don’t have the lightning bolt thing down pat yet.
2. You existed before this life. When you took physical form in this world, you caused yourself to forget who you really are. While in this world of form, your major spiritual quest is to remember and recreate who you really are.
3. Death is no big deal. It is failure to doctors, tragedy to those left behind, but relief and release to the soul. The soul is clear that there is no great tragedy about leaving the body. We are all immortal right now; immortality is not something you have to earn by following a religious script; we never do die, we only change form.
4. God is not the vengeful, punitive God that many Jews, Christians and Muslims believe. There is no Hell.
5. Souls can reincarnate many times, be born into this world many times. The decision to do this is made by the soul itself, so it can continue to grow. Karma is not an obligation of the soul, but an opportunity of the soul to continue to grow, looking at past events and experiences as a measure of that growth. [This contradicts eastern beliefs that karma is a debt of the soul to be repaid by successive lives on earth. I like the original concept better.]
6. Don’t envy someone who is very fortunate nor overly pity someone less fortunate. “Judge not, then, the karmic path walked by another. Envy not success, nor pity failure, for you know not what is success or failure in the soul’s reckoning.” [I found this an interesting concept – that one’s lot in life was chosen by his own soul for its own spiritual growth.]
7. Killing is evil, killing for God is the highest blasphemy. However, you are not to be either a victim or a martyr; war is sometimes necessary and you have a moral obligation to prevent aggression against others and yourself.
8. The purpose of life is joy. WG says “Life should be a joy, a celebration…Four fifths of the world’s people consider life a trial, a tribulation, a time of testing, a karmic debt that must be repaid, a school with harsh lessons that must be learned, and, in general, an experience to be endured while awaiting the real joy, which is after death.” [I agree with this. Anything that destroys joy, including various religious beliefs, should be excised and thrown out as rubbish.]
9. Money is good, not evil, not “the root of all evil.” Being rich is good – there is nothing spiritually advantageous about poverty and want.
10. Sex is one of man’s highest joys. It is not shameful or evil. Being attracted to the opposite sex is not “committing adultery in your heart,” it is following the dictates of nature that were programmed into us to procreate the human race.
These are some of the ideas I found interesting and worthy of futher study and discussion. There are others but this will suffice for now.
Some of the ideas of WG that I didn’t like or accept are these:
1. Man is the greatest source of harm to nature and the environment. Nonsense; man is part of nature and man’s imprint on nature, for good or bad, is negligible.
2. Man could immediately end world hunger and cure disease in an instant if he really wanted to. Balderdash. This is moon-battery of the worst order.
3. Man could end war if he really wanted to – all we have to do, all we have ever had to do, is to agree. Ri-i-i-ght. All we have to do is reconcile many different cultures, religions, political systems, philosophies and world-views and we can begin beating our swords into plowshares. When did any two humans ever agree on anything? This comment is just plain dumb.
4. There is no such thing as evil – even Hitler went to Heaven. I have a lot of trouble with this one. WG implies that there are no consequences for mass murder, tyranny, cruelty and oppression. Although I do not believe in the vengeful and punitive God nor do I believe in Hell, I find it unjust that Hitler, or others like him, can merely skate on into paradise at the end of their lives. Here’s where the older version of karma makes sense – where Hitler may redeem himself through many more lives on earth, experiencing the same horrors he visited upon others, or mitigating such punishment through better deeds.
Conclusions: Walsch’s book is worth a read. It does reexamine some religious concepts that need reconsideration. It should not be considered a religious text or a new religion, nor should it be viewed as a literal expression of God’s mind. If it helps you along the path to enlightenment and spiritual growth, that’s a good thing, but don’t take it literally. Reexamining one’s religious beliefs is not a bad thing – it is necessary for your own spiritual growth.
Here’s a quote I found on the web. I think it says a lot that is related to this post:
God builds his temple in the heart on the ruins of churches and religions. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)
Here’s another relevant quote:
We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty humans, and then blames them for his own
mistakes. – Gene Roddenberry