God stands outside His created order.* He is not beholden to the standards of His creatures. God does as He wills.**
We use anthropomorphisms to discuss God, but these are only points of reference and not the reality. God inhabits a dimension beyond our comprehension and thus cannot be conceived apart from His self-revelation.
Revelation is the method whereby God discloses truths about Himself through the agency of prophets. Philosophy hints about the existence of God, but it cannot explain God.
The major revealed religions are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In their inspired sacred writings we find the truth about God.
HISTORY OF THE RELIGIOUS VOID
The history of humankind is a testament to its ingenuity in creating religious variety. However, at its core, all faiths yearn to discover God. Adventurer and anthropologist Richard Burton provides a succinct summary of this yearning:
The necessity of a Demiurgos -- a Creator -- so familiar to our minds is generally strange to savages. The wilder tribes of Singhalese Veddahs, for instance, have no superstition; these savages have not even attained the fear of demons. It has but scant hold upon the imagination of barbarous men. The Buddhists and Jains ascribed after Sakya-Muni the phenomena of the universe to Swabhava, or force inherent in matter, Matra, and independent of an Ishwara-Karta, or Manufacturing God. Aristotle and Spinoza believed with Pythagoras the world to be eternal, and that a God cannot exist without the world, as height without breadth. Hence Hegel's "eternal nihilum" -- creation being everything for created beings -- in direct opposition to Calvin, who opined that creation is not a transfusion of essence, but a commencement of it out of nothing. In the present day, the Kafirs of the Cape, the ancient Egyptians, and African races generally, barbarians and semi-barbarians, by no means deficient in intellect and acuteness, have never been able to comprehend the existence or the necessity of a One God. With them, as with a multitude of civilized philosophers -- the Indian Charvakas, for instance -- Nature is self-existent, Matter is beginningless and endless; in fact, the world is their God. Ex nihilo nihil fit is the first article of their creed. Absolute ignorance of any God, then, was the earliest spiritual condition of the human family.
But veneration is inherent in the human breast. Presently mankind, emerging from intellectual infancy, began to detect absurdity in creation without a Creator, in effects without causes. As yet, however, they did not dare to throw upon a Single Being the whole onus of the world of matter, creation, preservation, and destruction. Man, instinctively impressed by a sense of his own unworthiness, would hopelessly have attempted to conceive the idea of a purely Spiritual Being, omnipotent and omnipresent. Awestruck by the admirable phenomena and the stupendous powers of Nature, filled with a sentiment of individual weakness, he abandoned himself to a flood of superstitious fears, and prostrated himself before natural objects, inanimate as well as animate. Thus comforted by the sun and fire, benefited by wind and rain, improved by hero and sage, destroyed by wild beasts, dispersed by convulsions of Nature, he fell into a rude, degrading, and cowardly Fetissism, the faith of fear, and the transition state from utter savagery to barbarism.
In support of this opinion it may be observed that this religion -- if indeed Fetissism merit that sacred name -- in its earliest form contains no traces of a Godhead or a Creator. It is a systematic worship of the personified elements, productions, and powers of Nature, male and female, and supported by a host of associates and subordinates. . . . There [for example] Brahm, or the One Almighty, is made the pinnacle of the gorgeous pagoda of belief; the whole universe, matter and spirit, is represented to be the very substance and development of the Demiurgos. In support of their grand Pantheism the Brahma-Sutra declares the human soul to be a portion of the Deity -- divinae particula aurae -- "the relation not being that of master and servant, but that of the whole and part." Creation was assumed to be the extension of the Creator's essence, as the mathematical point produces by its increase length, depth, and breadth by endowing empty space with the properties of figure. From this refined and metaphysical dogma, this theoretical emanation of being from, and its corollary, refusion into, the Soul of the World, springs the doctrine of Metempsychosis, "implying belief in an after-state of rewards and punishments and a moral government of creation." The votary of Hinduism has now progressed so far as to symbolize the vulgar idolatry of the people. Beneficent animals are explained as symbols of Brahma's creative and Vishnu's preserving functions; wild and ferocious beasts are typified as the Deity's destroying power. They revere men of splendid abilities and glorious actions as having more of the divine essence and a directer emanation than the vulgar herd. Hence the senseless idol worship of the unlearned. Select forms also, as the cleft of a tree, are chosen to represent materially -- oculis subjecta fidelibus -- the passive power of generation, an upright rock expressing the active.
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[The ancients wrongly attributed attributes of divinity to aspects of the created order, what we know as secondary causes.] Confucius was as disposed to primarize secondary causes as his predecessors. Owning that he knew nothing about the gods, he therefore preferred to avoid the subject.
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Zoroaster was made to believe in a God, "the Best, Incorruptible, Eternal, Unmade, Indivisible, and most Unlike everything"; in fact, an abstraction, a negative. Yet Hyde, Anquetil du Perron, and other moderns make the Parsee sect to represent with their complicated system of rites and ceremonies, their legion of supernatural beings, powers, and influences, and abstruse Dualism, the pure ignicolism of the old Guebre.
But the dark epoch of savage Atheism [denial of one or more of the gods of any polytheistic system] having fulfilled its time, already in the Fetissism, the Polytheism, the Pantheism, the Metempsychosis dogma, and the Idolatry of the early East may be descried the dawning of an enlightened Theism. Like the dogma of a future state of rewards and punishments in Moses' day, it was not unknown though unexplored. The Hindus had their Vedas Shashwata, and the Guebres their Akarana Zarwana. The former ruled the triads; the latter was superior to Hormuzd, the Sun, and Ahriman Ahura-mana, the Evil Principle personified. So the Greeks had a 0eos, and the Romans a Deus, ignored except as a theory. The Arabs and the Mexicans in their vast Polytheism still distinguished Al, the Supreme Being, from the crowd of subaltern gods, angels and devils, mediators, subordinate intelligences, incarnations, transmigrations, emanations, manifestations, and similar earthly representatives. Here, then, was the thought-germ of an eternal, unmade, incorruptible, and creative Deity. . . .
The similarity of belief, of manners and customs, and even of the coincidence of lawful and unlawful food, between India and Egypt is too striking to be accounted for by mere chance The Fetissism of the one exactly resembled that of the other. . . .
As time wore on, Pantheism, which sees a deity everywhere, even within ourselves, regarded the terrestrial gods as earthly vessels animated with a spark of the Universal Soul. The subaltern deities, the objects of Sabaean worship, as the sun, the moon, and the fixed stars, were held to be superior mediating powers with the Almighty Power. A thousand interpretations, physical, symbolical, mystical, and astronomical, were framed by the wise of Memphis. And as amongst the Hindus, so the Deity of Egypt was, though revealed to the initiated, sedulously obscured to the vulgar by a host of Avatars and incarnations, of transmigrations and subordinate intelligences.
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From Egypt these dogmas passed over to Greece, from Greece to the Rasenian people of ancient Etruria. This diffusion, proved by the similarity of their belief, is supported by old tradition. . . . The manifest resemblance of the rites and ceremonies, the processions and mysteries, together with the historic fact that the greatest minds in Greece had studied with the priest-philosophers of Helispotes and Memphis, are the main points of circumstantial evidence whence rose Warburton's luminous theory that the knowledge of the "Secret One" was preserved by the esoteric, but concealed for fear of the profane. . . .
India and Persia, we have seen, left their Deity an abstruse and philosophical doctrine, a mere abstraction, "infinite and eternal Nothings." Simple efforts of the mind and intellect, they were probably added by after-thought to perfect and complete the Pantheon. They were involved in the deepest gloom, whilst man's vision was engrossed by the stars and other objective creations familiar to his eyes, and through them to his sensuous mind. The most ancient philosophers then theorized concerning an Almighty Creator, believed in him by stealth and theory, but in practice left him to oblivion and neglect. The vulgar bowed, not to a deity, but to deifications of his attributes, which they had rendered material and congenial.
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Even as alchemy preceded chemistry, magic physics, and astrology astronomy, in fact as ignorance and error have ever paved the way for true learning, so was the worship of Nature the fit preliminary to the worship of Nature's God. The fulness of time now came for the revelation of Theism, the religion of Love, and the only dogma that has taken firm root in the hearts and minds of the nobler types of man.***
Burton thusly suggests the disclosure of God through the histories of India, Egypt, Greece, and beyond is subject to progressive thought, culminating in the enlightenment occasioned by Theism. It is arguable whether the varieties of religion stemming from the cradle of India, Egypt, and Greece was a philosophical precursor or impediment when compared with the simplicity found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Perhaps their appeal to populism rather than elitism is the best argument favoring the success of the monotheism of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
EXISTENCE OF GOD
Burton dispels the modern notion that proving the existence of God in a preoccupation of religious people:
Existence of God is not "the common and almost universal belief of mankind." The truth that there is a God is usually thus demonstrated:
1. Physical argument, in which effects and events are traced to causes, till arrival at a First Cause, uncaused.
2. Argument from final causes and design, of which innumerable evidences in physical and mental worlds point to a Great Original Designer.
3. Moral argument, based upon innate feeling of obligation and responsibility.
4. Historical argument and the consensus of mankind.****
In conclusion, Burton writes, "We may leave Zealots and Thaumaturgists, Sceptics and Atheists to dispute ad libitum a point unsolvable, and which, if solved, would be of little advantage to mankind."*****
God is Supreme. He exists outside time, which He created. God cannot be explained adequately apart from His self-revelation, which He communicates through His select prophets.
The objective religious history of humankind is replete with the misconceptions of God rooted in the failure to understand that He resides in a dimensions beyond our comprehension. The laws of nature governing our three-dimensional frame of reference must be suspended when God communicates through His prophets.
The religions founded by these prophets are known as the revealed religions. They are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The ancients sought to describe God in a variety of expressions, but all efforts proved futile against the sensibility of Monotheism. God is no a creature and not like His creatures.
* "Lesson 1: Eternal Life",
** "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" (Romans 9:21).
*** Burton, Richard Francis. "The Jew The Gypsy and El Islam" (1898), pp. 289-302.
**** Burton, p. 291.
***** Burton, p. 302.