World Religions and the God Within

Hank Mattimore
Jan 11, 2012
Reproduced with Permission

I have been reading Houston Smith's classic book on World Religions, A devoted Christian from birth, he writes eloquently and respectfully about the way Hindus and Muslims, Buddhists and Jews approach God. What a different world it would be if more of us shared his respectful approach to other religions

But, much as I admire the scholarship and wisdom of Smith's openness to all religious denominations, I'm at the point in my life where I find that the dogmas of organized religion are almost beside the point. Do you know what I mean? God is bigger than our dogmas.

I find the spirit of God in art and music and poetry. God is in us in our yearning to love and be loved, in our hunger for justice, our compassion for the marginalized in society.

I don't need organized religions to show me the presence of God in the petals of a flower or in the roar of a grizzly bear. I already know in my belly that the spirit lives in the oceans and in the redwoods, in the protective instincts of a lioness towards her cubs and in the innocence of children. As Gerald Manley Hopkins put it "The world is charged with the grandeur of God."

I can and do pray privately some times but I am always conscious that I am part of something bigger than myself, That's why I speak to God not as MY father but as OUR Father. The significant word is not "father" but "our." Whether you conceive of God, as Father or Mother or Spirit or Higher Power matters little to me.

What matters is that we are all connected to that spirit that gives us an appreciation for life and a hunger for something greater than ourselves. It is that spirit within that makes our own souls soar, enabling us to transcend our weakness and self-centeredness and become all we were meant to be.

Paradoxically. I do continue to attend my local Catholic parish church. I find that praying together with others who share my own perspective on God and religious values is important in my life. We are social animals and believing as I do that God is within all of us, I would never be satisfied with a private, exclusive me-and-God relationship. But neither the Catholic Church nor the Buddhist temple or the Holy Rollers have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit.

I don't care much whether you go to church on Sunday, worship on the Sabbath, pray to Allah five times daily or do none of the above. What really maters is that you look on all of creation as holy ground and tread on the earth and all of life with reverence. God is here in our world. The Creator not only made us but continues to abide with us and in us.

That's awesome stuff and puts in perspective our petty religious differences. Don't you think?