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NewsReal Sunday Dialogue: Ryan, The Divine Supermarket Has More In Stock Than God and Heaven

Posted on June 6 2010 11:17 pm
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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I always enjoy when my friend and colleague Ryan Mauro takes a break from his specialty of foreign policy so that he can riff on spirituality. Taking a Colbert Report interview as a starting point, Ryan took the occasion to opine on the trend of those in the West who just kind of “make up” whatever they want to believe:

…there’s a few concepts that are being embraced widely.

The first is that everyone or almost everyone goes to heaven, and there is no God. Those that believe in a God prefer to call it a “higher power.” But, no religion has it right on morals, heaven, or anything—moral, cultural and religious relativism to the max. Basically, the most comforting aspects of religion are embraced, while anything involving responsibility, judgment or insecurity is deleted.

I think Christians, and actually all followers of the monotheistic religions, need to be prepared to answer these challenges—and hopefully, in a more articulate and powerful way than I am able to. The entire reason behind these new concepts is to create a more comforting spirituality that doesn’t involve the judgment that makes us feel targeted and unworthy. Christians should be able to sympathize with the desire to be spiritual but in a comfortable way, and show them that they are actually running away from the great comfort that they are seeking.

Ryan’s main point: people with squishy, non-orthodox spiritual views are just creating their own false god. They’re spiritual cowards who don’t have the guts to take God as he actually is. They’ve fallen in with the Left’s moral relativism — that you can do and believe whatever makes you “feel good.”

(Of course, the idea that you get to go to heaven because you have it right and others have it wrong can also be considered a “comforting belief” — either you’re smarter or better than other people or God loves you more that he opens your mind to his Truth. But there’s something else I’d rather focus on in this discussion.)

I was reminded of an essay I wrote for my personal blog in February of 2009 called “The Divine Supermarket” taking this notion to task. I propose something different: everyone, no matter how “Orthodox” their belief, creates their own vision of who and what “God” is. Every religious text is a a complex book. And no one can hold the entire Bible in their head, especially when there are so many conflicting visions of God in the book. Everyone — even believers like Ryan — have to pick and choose what aspects of God they want to embrace and emphasize. We all go to the Divine Supermarket and assemble our own spiritual meal in our religious shopping cart.

Our religious maps are merely maps of a Divine Territory far more vast than our limited brains can comprehend. As one of my favorite authors was fond of saying, The Map is not the Territory.

P.S. Ryan:

I’m not an expert on comparative religion by any means, but I think it’s safe to say that almost every religion has a heaven and a God. To separate them is to basically make things up.

There are plenty of religions that don’t have Heaven or God.( Buddhism is perhaps the most prominent example.) The Eastern religions which aren’t based on our yes/no, black/white, Aristotelian logic are rampant with unconventional ideas. And incidentally the concept of universalism within Christianity is nothing new either. And the main reason why Ryan rejects it now is because the universalists lost the political battle when Christianity was being created.

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