“The shadow of God is vast” – said Frederick Nietzsche, after announcing that God was dead. God was dead, and so human beings were left orphans, alone on earth, without any basis for claiming that they are equal in dignity and value. We are indeed unequal,” Nietzshe continued, “and ethics based on equality, if they persist, it is because the shadow of God is still cast over the world. When the sun of God is completely extinguished and not even the shadow of it remains, then the morality of the strongest will be avenged.
This is what happened, tragically, in Hitler’s time. In the name of the superiority of the Aryan race, which was wanted to be pure and as hard as steel, thousands of human beings were barbarically annihilated.
Marxism-Leninism likewise tried to sweep God’s sun and its own shadow from the horizon. It sought to establish a classless society. But since without a father there are no brothers, equal in rights and duties, far from creating a fraternal world, it ended up creating herds of slaves, often victims of new concentration camps and holocausts similar to those of Nazism. “If God does not exist, everything is permitted”, Dostoyevsky sadly observed. Bishop Fulton Sheen observed in his turn: “Those who put out the lights in the sky simultaneously put out the lights on earth”.
But have there not been, throughout history and to this day, avalanches of crimes committed in the name of God? On the belts of the Nazi police were there not written: “God is with us”? Did not the Christian crusaders soak the Holy Land in blood, shouting: “God wills it”? More than five hundred years ago, were Spanish and Portuguese Jews not forced to emigrate, or burned by the Inquisition, in order to “preserve the faith”, as it was said (instead of being generally said to be to hunt down their possessions)? In the name of Allah, on 11 September 2001, didn’t suicide planes level the twin towers in New York and fill them with people who were buried in the rubble?
It is often repeated today, and it is true, that “there is no world peace without religious peace, and there is no religious peace without dialogue between religions”. How many wars and how many hatreds of a religious nature have not sown astonishment and terror!
However, it is not lost on me that this often stems from a distorted image of God. And that the message of Christ can shed a decisive light on the root of the matter and contribute to the solution of the problem. Christian faith in God made man establishes that the true worship of God goes through the worship of the human being. It is not possible to love God without loving the brother or sister next to us. A religious experience that does not promote human dignity cannot be considered authentic.
God being Love and Life, whenever we lift a finger to add to the physical or spiritual life of a person, God is glorified. And He is offended by us, when we degrade ourselves or our fellow man.
For millennia, the world religions were “separate religions”. Thank goodness that today they have begun to dialogue. They have found common ground, shared concerns such as the fight for human rights, the defence of the most disadvantaged or the commitment to peace. To this form of dialogue is being added the desire for mutual knowledge and understanding of love.
Today, as always, religions have two sublime responsibilities: to unite and to build.
Faith in the one God, the universal Father, can follow no other logic than that of union and love, since all men and women on earth are covered by the same divine umbrella. True faith launches a bridge for all peoples, even more so for all beings in the universe, as Ibn’ Arabi sang, already in the 13th century:
“My heart became
a meadow of gazelles
and a cloister of Christian monks,
a temple of idols
and Kaaba of pilgrims:
I profess the religion of love
and I go where I am led
Prayers and worship are worth as long as they are the creative lifeblood of kindness, welcome, solidarity, understanding and joie de vivre. Worship means turning body and soul towards God’s creative act in order to build, brick by brick, as a house is built, a world that is ever more fraternal, more just and more respectful of human rights. A world without hatred and destruction of any kind.
Those who keep the lights of the High burning in their hearts will be the first to light the lights of this Earth…
Abílio Pina Ribeiro, cmf
(PHOTO: Emma Gossett)