There is a well-known text attributed to Spinoza that portrays a peculiar concept of God, characterized as permissive and indifferent to praise or worship.
“Stop praying and beating your chest! What I want you to do is go out into the world and enjoy your life. I want you to rejoice, sing, have fun, and enjoy everything I have created for you. Stop going to those gloomy, dark, and cold temples that you yourself built and claim are my house. My house is in the mountains, in the forests, the rivers, the lakes, the beaches. That is where I live, and there I express my love for you.
Stop blaming me for your miserable life; I never told you there was anything wrong with you or that you were a sinner, or that your sexuality was bad. Sex is a gift I have given you to express your love, your ecstasy, your joy. So don’t blame me for everything you have been led to believe.
Stop reading supposed sacred scriptures that have nothing to do with me. If you can’t read me in a sunrise, in a landscape, in the gaze of your friends, in the eyes of your child… you won’t find me in any book!
Trust me and stop asking me. Are you going to tell me how to do my job?
Stop being so afraid of me. I don’t judge you, criticize you, get angry, get upset, or punish you. I am pure love. Stop asking for forgiveness, there is nothing to forgive. If I made you… I filled you with passions, limitations, pleasures, feelings, needs, incoherences… with free will. How can I blame you if you respond to something I put in you? How can I punish you for being who you are when I am the one who made you? Do you think I could create a place to burn all my children who misbehave for all eternity? What kind of crazy god could do that?
Forget about any kind of commandments, any kind of laws; those are tricks to manipulate you, to control you, that only create guilt in you. Respect your fellow human beings and don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want for yourself. The only thing I ask of you is to pay attention to your life, let your state of alertness be your guide.
My beloved, this life is not a test, nor a step, nor a phase on the way, nor a rehearsal, nor a prelude to paradise. This life is the only thing here and now, the only thing you need. I have made you absolutely free, there are no rewards or punishments, there are no sins or virtues, no one keeps score, no one keeps a record. You are absolutely free to create in your life a heaven or a hell. I cannot tell you if there is anything after this life, but I can give you some advice. Live as if there isn’t. As if this is your only opportunity to enjoy, to love, to exist. So, if there is nothing, then you will have enjoyed the opportunity I gave you. And if there is something, rest assured that I won’t ask you if you behaved well or not, I will ask you, did you like it?… did you have fun?… What did you enjoy the most? What did you learn?… Stop believing in me; belief is assuming, guessing, imagining. I don’t want you to believe in me, I want you to feel me within you. I want you to feel me within you when you kiss your beloved, when you tuck in your little child, when you caress your dog, when you bathe in the sea.
Stop praising me, what kind of egotistical God do you think I am? I get bored with being praised, I am tired of being thanked. Are you grateful? Show it by taking care of yourself, your health, your relationships, the world. Do you feel seen, overwhelmed?… Express your joy! That is how you praise me.
Stop complicating things and mindlessly repeating what you have been taught about me. The only certainty is that you are here, you are alive, and this world is full of wonders. Why do you need more miracles? Why so many explanations? Don’t search for me outside, you won’t find me. Look for me within… there I am, beating within you.
Let’s examine some of the erroneous teachings presented:
- God’s Permissiveness: The text suggests that God permits individuals to live as they please without consequences or accountability. However, Catholicism teaches that God, out of His infinite love, has granted humanity free will, allowing us to make choices. Yet, our choices carry moral weight, and we are responsible for our actions. God’s love is not a license for moral laxity, but an invitation to live in harmony with His divine plan.
- The Importance of the Church: While the text diminishes the significance of churches and places of worship, Catholicism emphasizes the importance of gathering in community for worship, receiving the sacraments, and deepening one’s relationship with God. The Church provides guidance, support, and the sacraments that nourish our souls on our spiritual journey.
- Repentance and Forgiveness: Contrary to the text’s assertion that there is nothing to repent for, Catholicism upholds the need for repentance and seeks God’s forgiveness for our sins. The sacrament of Reconciliation allows Catholics to confess their sins, receive absolution, and experience the transformative power of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
- Sacred Scriptures and Divine Revelation: Catholicism recognizes the Sacred Scriptures as God’s inspired Word and the foundation of faith. Through Scripture, the Church receives divine revelation, guiding believers in their understanding of God’s plan for salvation.
- God’s Love and Justice: While the text presents God solely as love, Catholicism affirms that God is both infinitely loving and perfectly just. God’s love does not negate the existence of sin or the need for repentance. His justice ensures that good is rewarded and evil is addressed, promoting the moral order and the ultimate flourishing of humanity.
- The Afterlife and Judgment: Catholicism holds that our actions have eternal consequences. We believe in the existence of an afterlife and the final judgment, where God will assess our deeds, rewarding those who have lived in accordance with His will and punishing those who have rejected His grace. This understanding provides a framework for moral accountability and the pursuit of holiness.
Are the commandments a trick to control humankind?
As a Christian, I firmly refute the assertion that the commandments or any form of laws within Christianity are tricks designed to manipulate and control humanity. On the contrary, the commandments and moral teachings serve as guides for human flourishing and fostering a harmonious relationship with God and others. Here are the reasons why:
- Moral Guidance: The commandments and laws provided in Christianity are not arbitrary rules meant to control or manipulate individuals. They are based on God’s wisdom and love for humanity, aiming to lead us away from harmful actions and towards virtuous living. They promote values such as love, justice, honesty, and respect for one another.
- Protecting Human Dignity: The commandments seek to protect the inherent dignity and worth of every individual. They discourage actions that harm ourselves or others, ensuring the promotion of human rights, the preservation of life, and the well-being of society as a whole.
- Freedom and Responsibility: The commandments are not meant to restrict our freedom but to provide boundaries within which we can exercise true freedom responsibly. By following these moral principles, we are liberated from the destructive consequences of sinful behavior and enabled to live authentically.
- Reflecting God’s Nature: The commandments reflect God’s nature and character, which is perfect and holy. They invite us to align our lives with His divine will, imitating His goodness and righteousness. God’s laws are intended to guide us toward living in harmony with His loving plan for creation.
- Invitation to Holiness: Rather than being manipulative, the commandments invite us into a life of holiness and spiritual growth. They encourage us to strive for moral excellence, cultivating virtues, and transforming our hearts to become more Christ-like in our thoughts, words, and actions.
- Loving Relationship: The commandments are rooted in God’s love for humanity. They provide a framework for us to express our love for God and our neighbors genuinely. Following these commandments is an act of love and obedience that strengthens our relationship with God and fosters authentic human connections.
The commandments and laws within Christianity are not manipulative tools but loving guidelines designed to promote human flourishing, protect the dignity, and foster a deeper relationship with God. They provide a framework for moral living, offering wisdom and guidance for navigating life’s complexities with integrity and love.
The Relativism of the Spinoza’s God
As Christians, our faith is centered on believing in God rather than solely relying on feelings or sensations. Belief is not mere assumption, guesswork, or imagination; it is a deeply rooted conviction based on the revelation of God’s Word and His interactions with humanity throughout history.
Christianity acknowledges that God is both transcendent and immanent. While we can experience a sense of God’s presence in various aspects of our lives, such as in the love we share with others or the beauty of nature, our faith extends beyond these experiences. It encompasses a belief in God’s existence and His active involvement in our lives, as revealed through Scripture, prayer, and the teachings of the Church.
While it is meaningful to feel a connection to God in moments of love, tenderness, and awe, faith goes beyond emotions. It involves a personal relationship with God, nurtured through prayer, worship, and the sacraments. These practices help us grow closer to God, understand His will, and live according to His commandments.
In Christianity, belief in God is not limited to subjective experiences but is grounded in the truth and reliability of God’s self-revelation. Our faith is shaped by Scripture, the witness of the apostles, the teachings of the Church, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, while feeling God’s presence in moments of affection and wonder can be a beautiful and profound experience, Christian faith encourages us to go beyond our emotions and embrace a deeper, lasting belief in God’s existence, His redeeming work through Jesus Christ, and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
In conclusion, while the text by Spinoza may raise intriguing ideas, it is important for Catholics to discern and adhere to the teachings of the Church as guided by the Magisterium and to remain rooted in the deposit of faith. The Catholic faith offers a rich tradition and a coherent understanding of God’s plan for humanity, inviting us to embrace His love, seek reconciliation, and live virtuous lives in communion with Him and our fellow believers.