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Taking Leave Of The Personal God

A personal God is an idea whose time has come…. and gone. In
the wake of all the troubles it has brought to us throughout the
centuries, and particularly in recent years, is it not time to
move onto a vision of the Divine that is better suited to

The notion of the personal God arose with our prehistoric
ancestors. It was a convenient way to describe a complex, and
often very harsh, world. The personal gods were many in number,
as evidenced by the numerous pantheons of divinities from ancient
Egypt to modern India. The concept of a single masculine personal
God, although prefigured by the Aton of Pharaoh Akhenaton, seems
to have come to the fore largely through Judaism, and then
through Christianity and Islam. Hinduism also adopted the idea
that the many gods in its pantheon are actually the different
faces of ONE god. However, although the pantheon gods are
personal, the ultimate God from which they derive, the Brahman,
is not.

However, the idea that the universe and the human race were
created by a personal God gives rise to many theoretical and
practical problems. The most obvious one, discussed frequently in
Christianity, is: why does God allow suffering? In its wider
sense, the question might be asked: why is the world the way it
is, i.e. so very terrible? Christianity answers with the words
“Devil”, “Free Will”, “Sin”, and ultimately “Salvation”. However,
none of this is very satisfactory when examined closely. The
saying, “A bad workman always blames his tools” comes to mind.
After all, God made us did he not? And with omniscient knowledge,
he must surely have known exactly what was going to happen.

Indeed, this leads onto theological ideas of Good and Evil. In
all three of the Abrahamic family of religions, Evil is regarded
as abnormal and definitely NOT the will of God. Hence, Death,
which is arguably Evil’s ultimate manifestation, is also
considered highly unnatural (but ultimately redeemable, whether
through the blood of Christ or faith in Allah etc.). Yet, the
very idea is absurd. How can there be an up without a down, or a
left without a right, or a coin with only one side?

Death, we now know, is INTEGRAL to life. If the old and wasted
cells in your body refused to die to make room for new ones, you
would literally face a fate worse than death! In Nature,
everything EATS everything! A lion might very well lie down with
a lamb one day (in fact, they can do so right now, when they are
not hungry), but could it still be called a lion if it transforms
into a vegetarian in Paradise? Indeed, for lions, tigers and
crocodiles to be carnivores at all, and kill for their own
survival, you would have to propose that after the fall of Man,
the Devil had to redesign the whole of the animal kingdom! After
all, if the personal God did not design these aggressive
predatory animals just as they are, who did?…

This is partly why the three Middle Eastern religions have a
relatively difficult time describing Paradise; a place where evil
does not exist. Christianity would have us doing nothing but
singing God’s praises all day (honestly…how dull!). Islam seems
to hold that Paradise is basically more of the good life;
basically, “wine, women and song”! But wouldn’t we get bored with
all that after a while? Many people already are. Each religion
tries to imagine an ideal world, where evil does not exist. Yet,
they completely fail to deliver the goods in a manner that can
excite or convince us.

The personal God is itself a massive contradiction. For someone
to have a “personality”, in any meaningful sense, they must
surely be time-based. For a God who operates completely outside
of Time, i.e. in Eternity, it is impossible to conceive how
personality could function. In the Bible, we learn that God can
be pleased or angered, saddened or elated. But given that we
operate within the sphere of time and he/she does not, does this
imply that God is ETERNALLY angry with the Exodus Jews for their
worship of the Golden calf?! If so, how can we, mere finite
mortal beings, produce permanent modifications in the
infinite eternal Godhead?

It is also hard to think of a “personality” who is sexless.
Hence, God has traditionally been male (although in prehistoric
times, God was female: the Mother Goddess). Christianity has
reinforced this further with words like “Father” and “Son”; both
male images. Is it any wonder, therefore, that women have
systematically been ill-treated and regarded as second-class
human beings by those religions that have adopted this male God?
They are blamed for the Fall of Man in Book One, and it basically
goes downhill from there! Islamic veils. Medieval witch trials.
No women priests. The list goes on and on.

In practical terms, the notion of the Personal God has wrought
tremendous chaos throughout world history. The three religions of
Christianity, Judaism and Islam are at each others’ throats,
which has led to the loss of countless millions of lives. The
reason is not too hard to find. Clearly, the one Personal God has
chosen to present his truth in mutually contradictory ways, and
each time has also incorporated a fail-safe system for large-scale
destruction by (a) declaring that all competing revelations are
the work of Satan and (b) his TRUE revelation must be spread to
all corners of the globe through religious conversion AND, if
necessary, war with “Satan’s forces” (i.e. the faithful of other
religions). This creates a neat closed circle within the minds of
the zealous, that completely prevents them from ever
understanding, and hence respecting, the point of view of other
faiths. After all, why cavort with the Devil?

Some brief examples will suffice…

In Judaism, you can go right back to the founding of Israel. On
the orders of God, a war of genocide was carried out by putting
to death every man, woman and child in the land of Canaan.
Interestingly, the chosen people proved to be more merciful than
their God, failing to deliver on the last part of this bloodbath,
and hence God was understandably livid! Doubtless, he had never
heard of racial/religious tolerance.

In Islam, despite the recent attention given to “Islamic
Fundamentalists”, we should not forget that the very religion of
Islam was originally spread through the work of such “fanatics”.
If you doubt this, you only have to visit India. There is an
amazing lack of Hindu temples in the north, which was subject to
the Musliminvasion, compared to the south, which the Muslim
never penetrated. Arguably, modern day Muslim moderates could
NEVER have got the new religion off the ground, let alone spread
it across the whole of the known world in the space of a few

As for Christianity, it is intriguing that more Christians were
killed by EACH OTHER in the early centuries of the Christian
Roman Empire than were killed in ALL the previous Roman
persecutions put together! Moreover, although it is generally
believed that Paganism quietly died out in the face of the
“superiority” of Christianity, the actual fact is that Pagans
were forcibly exterminated under the order of the fanatical
Christian Emperor Theodosius, in a persecution that bears
favorable comparison to Nazi Germany. Temples were torn down,
idols were dragged out into the streets and destroyed, and people
were simply killed for their beliefs. That is how Christianity
finally triumphed over Paganism.

By contrast with all this, it is hard to locate a single war
fought in the name of Buddhism or Taoism; faiths that do not
possess the notion of a personal God. How can they go to war when
there is no personal God to tell them to do so, and hence no
historical justification for future wars either? However, it
would be mistaken to believe, as many do, that traditions without
a personal God are essentially atheistic. Both acknowledge the
existence of Cosmic Intelligence. However, the latter is
considered to be beyond conception and beyond name. It is not
personal, but rather transcends personality and description. As
the opening line of the Tao Te Ching says: “The Tao that can be
spoken of is NOT the Eternal Tao”.

The ideology that prevails in a society really does determine its
mode of behavior. In both the Middle East and the West, we
are ruled by this notion of a personal God. Hence, the actions we
take must be at least partially due to this deep-seated belief.
If you believe (and have scriptures that support this belief)
that your God encourages war under the “right circumstances”, and
even engages in wanton acts of destruction himself at appropriate
instances, then it will not be long before you have an excuse to
do the same. Bob Dylan’s ironically titled song, “With God On Our
Side” illustrates the fact that in any conflict, both
protagonists believe that God supports THEM. The classic example
of this is the so-called “war on terrorism” right now. On one
side you have a US President telling you that this is a war of
Good against Evil, and Good will prevail. On the other side, you
have Islamic extremists, who are perfectly willing to die for
their God in order to strike a blow at what they consider to be
the “Great Satan”. Ironically, each side worships the SAME God!

It does seem that Science is revealing a universe permeated with
intelligence at every level; complex beyond human conception, and
with purposes than no human mind can fathom. Cosmic Intelligence
is indeed everywhere around us. However, it need not be
considered “personal” in any way. By adopting a viewpoint like
this, which places no limits on God because it places no
definition upon it, we avoid all the negative consequences of the
personal God. You cannot go to war for Cosmic Intelligence,
because the latter does not reveal itself through scriptures,
choose one nation over another as its favorite, or order the
obliteration of the infidels.

The paradox of suffering, and the apparent existence of Good and
Evil, is also resolved. We now see the universe as a cosmic dance
of forces that must both necessarily exist. The symbol of the
Yin-Yang is appropriate here; a small hint of dark within the
light, and a small hint of light within the dark. Each is
inseparably intertwined within the other. No longer do we need to
ask absurd questions such as “Why does a good God permit
suffering?”. The paradox is created by the assumptions of the

Rather, we should seek the higher perspective of Cosmic
Consciousness from which all apparent dualities cease to exist.
We see suffering and evil now only because we perceive ourselves
to be separate, finite and mortal; none of which is actually
true. Hence the answer to the above question would be, “There is
no PERSONAL God to permit suffering (or anything else for that
matter), and there is no suffering when viewed from the
perspective of Cosmic Consciousness”.

A personal God served our ancestors and helped them survive in a
complex and incomprehensible world. However, the world of the
21st century is a very different place. The personal God is a
carry-over from the past, and the suffering it causes is evident
for those who have eyes to see. If we did not already cherish
this conception so dearly, it is extremely unlikely it could ever
have originated from scratch in the modern world.

The human race is hopefully moving into a new phase of spiritual
evolution, in a united world of mutual understanding and cultural
cooperation. The concept of transcendent Cosmic Intelligence
serves us better than the personal God ever did. To paraphrase
the words of St. Paul: “When I was a child, I thought like a
child. But now, let me put away childish things…”

Copyright 2002, Asoka Selvarajah. All Rights Reserved.


Asoka Selvarajah is a writer on personal growth and spirituality, and the author of “The 7 Golden Secrets To Knowing Your Higher Self”. His work helps people achieve their full potential, deepen their understanding of mystical truth, and discover their soul’s purpose. You can subscribe to his FREE ezine, and get his FREE ebook “Inner Light Outer Wealth” at:
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About Asoka Selvarajah

Dr. Asoka Selvarajah is a writer and teacher of personal growth and spirituality, and the author of numerous books and courses. His work helps people achieve their full potential, deepen their understanding of mystical truth, and discover their soul’s purpose.Subscribe to the Aspire To Wisdom list to receive more articles and resources to your inbox.

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