Sometime ago, when I was speaking to a group of people at Nashville, US, I was telling them a joke and I referred to God as “Him”. Immediately a few women stood up and asked, “Do you believe God is a man?” I said, “I am just telling you a joke.”
They said, “It doesn’t matter, do you believe God is a man because you refer to God as Him?” Similarly, a few years ago Idi Amin declared, “God is black.”
I agree with both. If a white man can have a white God, why can’t a black man have a black God? And why can’t God be a woman? You stop the buffalo on the street and ask him about his God. He will say, “God is a huge buffalo.” This is because people believe in things which are not a living reality for them. If you look at it, most religions have reduced themselves into a set of belief systems.
If we believe in something according to our convenience or based on our cultural influences, then there is a natural conflict the moment we come in contact with someone who believes in something else.
That is why some of the worst crimes in history have been committed in the name of God. Essentially, belief systems stem from a basic problem that people are not sincere enough to admit that they do not know. If this sincerity to simply admit, “What I know, I know; what I do not know, I do not know” comes to us, then there is really no room for conflict.
There are two kinds of religions in the world. One seeks the benevolence of God while the other encourages one to manifest one’s own divinity. One teaches prayer, another seeks to manifest prayerfulness.
Yoga Patanjali says it beautifully: When one knows how to be truly prayerful, prayer is not the means to reach God, but God is only the means so that we can pray.